Just who is new Microsoft boss Satya Nadella?

Last updated 08:33 05/02/2014
SATYA NADELLA: His interests include cricket and poetry.
SATYA NADELLA: His interests include cricket and poetry.

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Microsoft's search for the heir to CEO Steve Ballmer, a process that dragged for months and touched off the biggest parlor game in tech of Name That CEO, has finally come to an end with an insider selection.

The software behemoth tapped Satya Nadella as CEO, elevated John Thomson to chairman and shifted Bill Gates into a role as technology advisor.

But who is incoming Microsoft chief Nadella?

Microsoft's veteran executive - he's been with the software giant for more than two decades - had been running its enterprise and cloud businesses. The native of Hyderabad, India's tech center dubbed "Cyberabad", is said to be an affable team builder with consensus inside Microsoft for the top spot.

"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," said Gates.

In contrast to Ballmer, known as a rowdy basketball fan and pickup game player with aggressive elbows, Nadella is a bookish and soft-spoken type, with hobbies of cricket and poetry.

Nadella speaks of the "humbling" and "incredible honour" to take the lead at Microsoft along with a passion to continue to educate himself through classes and books.

"I've been fortunate to work closely with both Bill and Steve in my different roles at Microsoft, and as I step in as CEO, I've asked Bill to devote additional time to the company, focused on technology and products," said Nadella in an email memo to employees on his first day as chief.

Nadella, 46, drove the server and tools business growth until 2013 and led as onetime Bing boss. Analysts says his engineering strength bodes well inside Microsoft.

"He's well-respected and thought of as a strong leader - i don't know if he's thought of as visionary," says reDesign analyst Rocky Agrawal, a former Microsoft employee.

Dan Ives, tech industry analyst at FBR Capital Markets, says shareholders who preferred fresh blood will be disappointed."The main issue around Microsoft is its need for innovation and a set of fresh new strategies to drive the next leg of growth," says Ives.

Still, he's gained a lot of clout inside the Redmond, Washington-based software giant for his part in Microsoft's move to the cloud.

"He's recognised for the transition to the cloud," says IDC analyst Al Hilwa. "He's been spearheading this transition to the cloud, which is one of the things that's going right for the company. They have been going toe-to-toe with Amazon on features and price - he gets a lot of respect for that."

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Nadella should get the respect and intellectual buy-in from longtime employees on day one, says Wes Miller, analyst at independent research firm Directions on Microsoft.

"The time frame required for an external hire to come on-line and really be effective is incredibly lengthy," Miller says. "Microsoft needs leadership that can hit the ground running, rather than hiring someone who has to make brute force guesses to appease the critics outside of Microsoft."

But can he redirect Microsoft to a good position in mobile to gain favor among consumers?

"He gets credit for being transformative in his thinking. He has injected much-needed agility into the company," says Hilwa.

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