With a rapidly changing world of technology and people continuously abandoning the personal computer and turning to mobile devices and the Internet for their daily tasks, worldwide leader Microsoft is trying to keep up. The technology giant announced that Satya Nadella, who was previously head of the company’s cloud and enterprise group, will take over for Steve Ballmer as the next CEO of Microsoft.
Nadella will be leading Microsoft at a very curious time for the company. Beginning with the Windows Phone, the company has attempted to unify its products in a method even grander than that of its biggest competitor, Apple. The company condensed some products under different umbrellas with its music service “Xbox Music,” folded Hotmail into a revamped Outlook.com and moved Microsoft Office into the cloud with Office 365.
Microsoft has only continued to push forward in the mobile market, acquiring the mobile technology of Nokia after a notable partnership that, while producing a series of memorable and colorful devices, wasn’t able to make a dent in the iOS and Android duopoly of the market.
The emphasis on cloud computing is likely why Nadella was selected to be the new leader for Microsoft as it attempts to bring its products even closer together. One of its latest products, Xbox One, is expected to use cloud processing in the near future to give additional strength to its gaming lineup. The potential of this development is limitless.
Yet Microsoft’s recent forays do give some pundits a bit of doubt about whether it’s enough to turn the tide. Just more than a year ago with the launch of Windows 8, it was expected that Steven Sinofsky, the man who helped Microsoft rebound from the debacle of Windows Vista with the well-received Windows 7, would take over. But in November 2012, Sinofsky left the company and Windows 8 has had a rough start, even if there’s some credit due for its ambitious touch-based interface.
It didn’t help that one of the cornerstones of Windows 8, the Surface tablet, has been a huge money loss for Microsoft, dashing hopes that it would become a competitor to the iPad. Sinofsky’s exit seems to represent some internal tension within the company as its attempts to break into both the tablet market and mobile market have proven fruitless.
It’s no wonder, then, that Bill Gates himself has decided to get into the foray, as it was also announced that he would be stepping down as chairman of the board and would begin serving instead as a technology advisor (even though he is still expected to spend most of his time with his charity foundation). Still, the fact that Gates sees that his skills are needed in the current environment of Microsoft speaks volumes.
The hire of Satya Nadella points not just to a change in focus, but also to change in company philosophy. By boosting cloud processing, it’s possible that the world could see a true cloud-based OS shared across all of its products, an Xbox One connecting with one’s PC, connecting with one’s phone, connecting with one’s SkyDrive and connecting to a Surface. The ideal here seems to be a combination of Google’s Chrome OS, but much more ambitious and robust.
Whether or not Microsoft can achieve this while creating a unique visual aesthetic (without betraying its utilitarian reliability) is perhaps the hardest challenge facing Nadella. A competitive market is the best market, and although the company has made strides in improving and simplifying its product line, it’s going to take a focused effort to establish itself as Apple’s equal instead of a fading giant.