Microsoft has finally concluded its protracted search and chosen its new CEO: Satya Nadella, who as executive vice president of the company's Cloud and Enterprise group has successfully steered the shift of the company's back-end server software and tools to the cloud.
As he takes the reins from Steve Ballmer, Nadella becomes only the third CEO in Microsoft's nearly 40-year history. Chairman and co-founder Bill Gates was the first.
"During this time of transformation, there is no better person to lead Microsoft than Satya Nadella," Gates said in a Microsoft news release issued Tuesday. "Satya is a proven leader with hard-core engineering skills, business vision and the ability to bring people together. His vision for how technology will be used and experienced around the world is exactly what Microsoft needs as the company enters its next chapter of expanded product innovation and growth."
In Nadella, Microsoft has chosen a long-time, loyal insider who knows the company well and is reportedly well-liked by his peers and the staff. A twenty-plus year company veteran, he has risen through the ranks, most recently leading the group in charge of computing platforms, developer tools and cloud services.
What Nadella is not is an outsider, making his choice less compelling to those who believe that Microsoft needed someone with no prior history and attachments at the company who could shake things up.
Nadella took over what was then the Server and Tools division in February 2011, and has managed it successfully by all accounts, increasing its revenue while overseeing the transition to cloud computing.
Prior to that, he was senior vice president of research and development for the online services division and vice president of the Microsoft business division.
Nadella joined Microsoft in 1992 from Sun Microsystems. He's a native of Hyderabad, India, and earned a master's degree in computer science from the University of Wisconsin. He also has a master's in business administration from the University of Chicago.
Ballmer announced his decision to retire in August. It shocked many who had assumed he would stay on for several more years, especially after having announced a broad reorganization only a month earlier.
More than 100 possible candidates were initially identified, of which "several dozen" were interviewed before narrowing the list down to about 20, John Thompson, a board member and the leader of the CEO search committee, said in December.
Some candidates were rumored to have taken themselves out of the running, citing concerns over the influence of Gates and Ballmer, who is one of the company's biggest individual shareholders. For a time, Ford CEO Alan Mulally was reportedly a front-runner, but he recently told Ford's board he had no plans to leave his job.
There was speculation that the board pushed out Ballmer, particularly when, a week after Ballmer shared his retirement plans, Microsoft announced an agreement with one of its biggest investors. The agreement gave ValueAct Capital the option of a seat on Microsoft's board, and in exchange it agreed not to wage a proxy battle or increase its shares above a certain level.