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Microsoft’s Nadella Bold and Wise Course Change

by Kerry Dawson

This week something rather phenomenal happened. Microsoft’s Satya Nadella introduced Office for the iPad ahead of Microsoft’s introduction of the software for their own Windows tablet. This is a both a bold and wise move for a company that seemed hopelessly lost under Steve Ballmer’s tutelage. It can’t be underestimated how significant this move was.

Microsoft was floundering in the chaos that Steve Ballmer led the company to. It can easily be stated if Microsoft didn’t have so much money they would have been in serious trouble. The company existed in a state of such utter mismanagement Steve Ballmer gained the reputation as the worst CEO going.

There’s no question he was. Microsoft was floundering with no sense of purpose and it appeared as if they were devoid of any product that could help them. However, this wasn’t true. Windows 8 has proved to be one of Microsoft’s most major strategic mistakes. Yet, they had a fascinating and powerful product that was losing its relevance in this company that could have been rubber stamped as seriously disturbed.

Microsoft’s New CEO arrived Just in Time

The Microsoft board had been trying to remove Steve Ballmer for a long time. This isn’t really a secret. At times, watching his presentations, you could feel he was seriously mentally disturbed. Some have thought he has full blown bi-polar disorder. He was so obsessed with Microsoft as invincible he was on the border of proving himself so wrong.

Microsoft’s choice of Satya Nadella to become CEO was not only a smart choice it the choice was so terribly needed. He arrived just in time.

His introduction of Office for the iPad was brilliant and exactly what Microsoft needed to do to salvage itself. It sent a message to the market that Microsoft was going to play in a new ballgame, one in which Microsoft would play to its strength.

Nadella came with a Plan

Nadella didn’t arrive on the scene bereft of ideas about what Microsoft needed to do. Exactly to the opposite, he arrived on the scene with a plan to win the hearts of users and corporate users once again who loved the devices they used or the devices they came to work with.

The world had changed greatly since Bill Gates tenure. The theory or thinking in the corporate world supports the concept of Bring your own Device to work. It is a wonderful approach both for the Corporate world in terms of device cost savings and keeping their employees happy by allowing them to use that which they liked. A lot of the employees in the corporate world today uses a Microsoft product at work but were turning up with iPhones and iPads in the droves.

The iPhone and the iPad have proved to be one of the most true stories of let the best win and the best is the iPad and the iPhone. Make no mistake. Android is represented by multiple companies with a highly fragmented operating system. There is only one company that even begins to rival the stature of Apple at the device level and that’s Samsung but by a very distant behind mark.

The corporate world had made their decision about which device they wanted too use and Steve Ballmer could have held out till the cows came home to get Office on their tablet only to have the employee scoff at the effort reducing Microsoft to the stature of complete irrelevance and foolhardiness.

The decision to introduce Office on the iPad was both bold and incredibly wise. Microsoft needed a course correction badly. Secondly, they were beginning to loose out on huge dollars in lost revenue. With BYOD in place and the decision by the employee basically as to device it was in Microsoft’s interest to become device independent. Rather than focus any longer on Windows, it was time to become the services and platform delivery company they can and will be.

Cloud First, Mobile First

Yet, with Microsoft now in such a weakened position what could the company focus on. Fortunately for Microsoft, they have a very strong product that was getting lost under Ballmer and that was Office 365. In fact, I think this is one of the strongest service offerings Microsoft has ever had.

Nadella didn’t arrive just to make just in time decisions. He came with a strategy and an incredibly smart one at that. He called it Cloud first, mobile first. With this in hand and a product to fit the strategy, that being Office 365 it is now time that Microsoft engages people’s imagination. There is no question Microsoft can rise to a prominent level again but they needed to do it “smart”. Nadella has given the company and users just that. A plan and a strategy with a very strong product offering to meet the need.

The final part of the plan is to separate yourself from a device dependent situation. Microsoft, to pull this off, needs to be device neutral. That was the other part of what Nadella introduced on March 27. He introduced device independence.


For Nadella’s plan to work, Windows has to be viewed as just an end user device OS equal to any other. Mobile first, Cloud first cannot be considered real from Microsoft if there is bias. It would also damage the BYOD strategy the corporations are glad to use as it:

  • Is less expensive
  • keeps the employee happy

Microsoft’s Mobile First, Cloud first is right with the times. It is adding to the definition of the times. Microsoft, who at one time was considered slow to catch on to the cloud movement, is joining with it en force and further the are racing ahead. This is good news.

All Benefit

The end user which includes the corporation is no longer being pushed into a situation that simply no longer works. Apple is considered to have great devices. Microsoft has the skills, capability and authority to be the deliverer of networked, enterprise class capable productivity systems. The combination of the two is dynamite.

Microsoft has to watch Google. That is really their main competitor. In this Mobile First, Cloud First world Apple and Microsoft prove to be a natural fit. Both companies benefit from this situation even if it isn’t spelled out.

Windows of course can play a role in this environment but if we’re talking Windows 8 that’s a whole new kettle of fish. Plagued with problems, it is best viewed as one of the platforms available a long with the others.

For Microsoft to pull this off though they really have to demonstrate device neutrality which would include their devices. In some ways, this shouldn’t be as hard as it first sounds. Apple really is oriented to the user at the device level. Microsoft though is respected at the platform delivery level. Possibly it might even benefit Microsoft not to invest so much in their device oriented projects such as Windows 8. To many, Microsoft seems to be flogging a dead horse. If they had continued with Balmer he would have tried to bring that horse back to life with every resource he had and ….

A Thriving new Market

In the Mac universe, there are numerous small business’ which could benefit greatly from Office 365. This is a whole new potential ground for growth. Add to that the ability to better serve their traditional market and Microsoft won’t bleed customers as they have been doing.

The world basically wants Mobile First, Cloud First. This is being requested from a number of different sources. As an example, it is not just business that operates now in this model. The home user is becoming quite enamoured with services based on the model.

Music was the first phenomenon we saw in which an industry was radically transformed. The AppleTV is now about to transform the entertainment industry.

The Right Man at the Right Time

Ballmer’s time was over a long time ago. It just took Microsoft almost too long to realize that. They have. The PC guy and the Mac guy might finally get a long. Nadella’s strategy and approach is right for the times and supports fully BYOD. Providing office for the iPad was an incredible first move on his part. Now let’s hope we see many more moves like this as there is so much to be done. With Apple and Microsoft at war it would have continually been a tug of war to do anything. Now potentially we can all get on with business but in a much stronger and better fashion.

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