SAN FRANCISCO — After compiling a list of more than 100 CEO candidates, Microsoft settled on Satya Nadella a home-grown leader who joined the software maker in the early 1990s.
Tuesday’s hiring of Nadella as Microsoft’s CEO after a five-month search is a safe move that’s likely to be greeted with sighs of relief around the company’s Redmond, Wash. headquarters, industry analysts say. But the methodical, almost predictable decision is likely to reinforce perceptions that Microsoft Corp. is a plodding company reluctant to take risks as it competes against younger rivals who relish going out on a limb.
While Google founder and CEO Larry Page boasts about his company taking “moon shots” and Zuckerberg promises to “move fast and break things,” Microsoft has fallen behind the technological curve after underestimating the importance of Internet search more than a decade ago and reacting slowly to the rise of mobile devices during the past seven years. Meanwhile, the sales of personal computers running on Microsoft’s Windows software are shrinking.
Microsoft’s malaise may have narrowed the field of up-and-coming visionaries interested in running the company.
‘Going back to the dark ages’
Just as Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Apple Inc. founder Steve Jobs would never have considered working at IBM Corp. in the 1980s, today’s entrepreneurial whiz kids scoff at Microsoft’s overtures.
“Going to work at Microsoft could make it look like you are going back to the dark ages,” says Richard Metheny, a management coach for the executive search firm Witt/Kieffer in Chicago. “It’s a well-entrenched business that has had trouble lately figuring out how to play in this new world.”
Despite its challenges, Microsoft remains a moneymaking machine that sits atop an $84 billion cash pile. That alone should have been enough to tempt technological sharpshooters to take a shot at turning around the company, says Dennis Carrey, vice chairman of executive recruiting firm Korn Ferry and co-author of the book, “Boards That Lead.”
Unsurprisingly, Microsoft described Nadella as the best person to intensify the company’s focus on blending software and gadgets with cloud computing — a term used to describe the delivery of applications and other services over the Internet.
Nadella, 46, wins praise from analysts and colleagues for his technical expertise, affability and deep knowledge of Microsoft’s culture and disparate divisions. He has spent the last 22 years at the company.
But Nadella is a remnant of the management team that led Microsoft astray during previous CEO Steve Ballmer’s 14-year reign.
Microsoft’s stock dipped 13 cents to close at $36.35 Tuesday after Nadella was anointed as CEO.