Inside Microsoft: Satya Nadella bringing new life to old tech giant

Microsoft's BUILD conference does many things well, but my personal favorite is that it provides personal access to high-level executives and developers as well as new staff to the organization. This exposure allows us to gain a better understanding of the internal culture at Microsoft, from a micro and macro perspective, and what we have found is a a considerable amount of drive behind new company CEO Satya Nadella.

Microsoft's third chief executive has massive shoes to fill, and the stories that came out of our casual and sometimes extremely personal conversations is that Microsoft is no longer blinded by its former success. The idea of being the challenger rather than the dominator was noted several times from people who work in Internet Explorer, Windows and Windows Phone as being their push for creating better products. Even the Office team, while not as driven in the challenger sense as other teams, knows that they have to maintain a steady course of feature improvements and platform enhancements (building the touch version of Office for Windows faster) so that they don't lose their competitive advantage.

Across the board, though, the feeling for Satya was overwhelmingly positive; the idea that a coder was back at the top of the org chart was a "sigh of relief" for many of the developers that we spoke too. Yes, obviously they are not going to openly bash their new boss, but many had genuine feedback about Nadella when they worked for him before his promotion. The feedback was consistent: a focused individual who knows how to build great services and he has a track record to back this up.

But it goes beyond the idea that Nadella is simply a coder. Many felt he truly understood Microsoft's current core competencies, and his moves to push out Office for iOS before the Windows version was finished promoted the fact the he is a software-first leader. As one individual noted, this would have not happened under Ballmer, under the guise that software followed devices.

All is not perfect, however. While Nadella has the confidence of all the employees we talked too, many still questioned what his true path for Windows Phone and Surface may be and how he will handle the injection of all the Nokia employees. Further, the execution strategy of Windows Phone still feels too slow, according to some of the conversations we had. There is a big push for market share, but not everyone feels that the company is executing in a way that gives it the best approach for growth.

Of all the two dozen or so conversations, what stood out the most was how everyone said Nadella is bringing new energy to the company and that he is providing motivation for expression not previously present inside the company. You can begin to see the "new" Microsoft with the way the BUILD keynotes took place by offering up more casual conversation and the forward-looking roadmaps, such as the Start menu's return and windowed modern apps.

At the core level, it feels like those who are working at Microsoft are highly encouraged by the direction Nadella is looking to take the company. Even in his short time at the top, he is already making decisions that are taking Microsoft in a direction that will keep the company on a path for growth and resurgence, his employees say.

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Microsoft is clearly changing but it isn't possible to say which changes result from a change in CEO, which are down to other staffing changes, and which are just ordinary day to day changes that people are inclined to pick up on at the moment.

There's a ton of business related things in update 1, so I don't see the issues here.

Sure, there will be a middle ground in some areas, but admit it, tons of people never used all the features in Windows anyway.
I still meet people that are truly surprised when showing shortcuts or moving your open windows around with the arrow keys.

Heck, there are still people opening a Word doc and saving it in another folder because they don't know how to use the Explorer ;-)

So making it less confusing for this group is a good thing. As long as it is not Apple dumbed down ;-P

Will he make the needs of business and serious consumers a priority? Or, will he continue copying Apple? One cannot do both equally well, as they are almost mutually exclusive.

Nadelle: Hired as CEO a few months ago... gets credit for every single business decision and piece of software that has been in development for more than a year.

yea, this is the kind of comments people have been saying...
its been in the roadmap for years and just because they change CEO suddenly he get all the credit, we see the hate against Balmer

While I'm liking Nadella a lot so far, let's be clear about one thing:

"Many felt he truly understood Microsoft's current core competencies, and his moves to push out Office for iOS before the Windows version was finished promoted the fact the he is a software-first leader."

Nadella never decided to release Office for iOS before Windows. This was a Ballmer decision in his last few months. Nadella does not / should not get credit for this.

Xabier Granja said,
Nadella never decided to release Office for iOS before Windows. This was a Ballmer decision in his last few months. Nadella does not / should not get credit for this.
How do you know this was Ballmer's decision? Was the project initiated under Ballmer's leadership? Of course. Would he have given the go-ahead to release it before Metro Office for Windows? I don't think so. The decision to release it was all Nadella as far as I can see.

Make Windows more secure from malware and virus.
Make visual studio easier and build cross platform apps.
Make cheaper surface
And others

utomo said,
Make Windows more secure from malware and virus.
Make visual studio easier and build cross platform apps.
Make cheaper surface
And others

They have. Windows 7 and 8 are the most secure versions of Windows yet.

utomo said,
Make Windows more secure from malware and virus.
And others

you never can fix stupid though. PEBKAC wil always be there..... ;-)

I am enjoying all the good news lately, but still afraid of the future, I just hope Microsoft make good apps and improve windows. For me it is realy important also for them to make the best hardware and make inovations.

Ross Funnell said,
After Ballmer overstayed it wouldn't be hard not to have some new momentum.
I'm excited to see the changes.

Disagree with the overstayed bit (but all good, we're all entitled to that difference of opinion), though I agree with the sentiment.. after so long at the helm, anyone new would've been "fresh blood"

ballmer stayed far too long so any change is a good change. I'm not sure he was the best choice but then again, between him and some of the other suits, yeah, he's got it.

Definitely the feeling I'm getting at the moment, seems there is some healthy momentum and spirit at MS right now.