3 tips for Microsoft's next CEO: How to handle Windows Azure

With Ballmer gone, Microsoft could go boom or bust in the cloud. To succeed, the next CEO must consider these points

By now, you've surely heard: Steve Ballmer is stepping down, after serving at Microsoft for 33 years overall, including 13 years as CEO. The move is due, at least in part, to the company's poor performance.

We're told the time frame for his departure is 12 months. However, he could be gone much sooner, given the current feeling among Microsoft investors. Indeed, the stock surged 8 percent at one point Friday morning on the news that Ballmer was leaving.

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Microsoft shops need to keep a close eye on this transition. This could be the beginning of Microsoft's rejuvenation -- or the beginning of the end.

The new CEO will likely focus on Azure and the movement to the cloud. To be honest, Microsoft has done better than I expected here; Azure is in second or third place behind Amazon Web Services, depending on which analyst reports you read. However, given the company's leadership position, the investors expected more from Azure and Microsoft as a whole.

The new CEO will have to renew focus on the cloud and figure out how to drive Microsoft into the forefront or at least into a solid second place. I have a few suggestions for the would-be CEO prior to getting the keys to the big office.

First, focus more on your existing .Net developer base. Many Microsoft developers don't feel as loved as they should be by Microsoft. While Microsoft does a good job of managing developer networks, I've seen many jump to Amazon Web Services in the last year. Developers are key to the success of cloud computing, and Microsoft has a ton of them.

Second, hire new cloud talent that will think out of the Microsoft box. Microsoft has undergone a brain drain in the last few years, and the ones who've stuck around haven't shown much innovation with Azure. Microsoft's strategy has been largely reactionary, such as the recent realignment to IaaS -- that's following, not leading.

Finally, look at interoperability. Microsoft loves having closed technology. Instead of arguing for interoperability, Microsoft prefers you stick to its stuff because it's supposedly made to work together. The world is not that simple, and Microsoft needs to take steps to make sure Azure works and plays well with others.

Good luck to the new CEO. He or she will need it.

This article, "3 tips for Microsoft's next CEO: How to handle Windows Azure," originally appeared at InfoWorld.com. Read more of David Linthicum's Cloud Computing blog and track the latest developments in cloud computing at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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