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It's Three's Company Now: Microsoft Names New CEO


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.


I'm Melissa Block.

And we start the hour with big changes at one of the world's biggest corporations. Microsoft has a new CEO, just the third in the company's nearly 39-year history. He is Satya Nadella, a longtime Microsoft executive who was born in Hyderabad, India. Also moving into a new role, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates. As NPR's Steve Henn reports, Gates is stepping down as chairman and will be a technology adviser for the company.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Start the countdown. Ballard...

STEVE HENN, BYLINE: Microsoft switches CEOs just a little bit more frequently than Seattle wins major sporting championships. The Seahawks just won the Super Bowl. But before that, it had been a while.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: The Seattle Supersonics have won the NBA world championship series.

HENN: That was back in 1979. And while it's true that Steve Ballmer became the CEO of Microsoft more recently, until now, only he and Bill Gates have held this job.

MATT MCILWAIN: Look, I think that being the CEO of any company is hard.

HENN: Matt McIlwain is a venture capitalist in Seattle and has known Satya Nadella, Microsoft's new CEO, for years. And while he thinks Nadella is a great pick...

MCILWAIN: You're asking somebody to take on the role of CEO, the third in the history of the company, with the first two being the founder and a near-founder of the company. And so there are, you know, massive challenges ahead.

HENN: To start with, Microsoft has to get its mojo back, especially in the consumer space. It's been left behind in mobile, a footnote in a world dominated by Google's Android and Apple's iPhone.

YUVAL NEEMAN: So it'll be interesting to see how much they really let Satya set his own direction and really execute in that.

HENN: Yuval Neeman and Satya Nadella came to Microsoft within a few years of each other. They were promoted to become vice presidents around the same time.

NEEMAN: You know, I think Microsoft needs to realize, maybe has realized that it does not have the talent to compete aggressively in every single space.

HENN: Neeman, who's now a venture capitalist, thinks the company would be better off focusing on a few things it does well. But right now, it competes in every big technology space, from videogames to corporate servers. And while Satya Nadella is taking the reins, his predecessors - Steve Ballmer and Bill Gates - will retain their seats on Microsoft's board of directors. Still, Matt McIlwain is optimistic that Nadella will be able to re-energize the company.

MCILWAIN: What Satya has done is he's shown the willingness to think differently.

HENN: Nadella decided to allow companies to run competitors' software on Microsoft's cloud.

MCILWAIN: And he's also shown a desire and an ability to get out there and meet the start-up community, the venture capital community.

HENN: Nadella grew up in India but comes from a fairly privileged background. Today, he says, he tries to be humble about what he's accomplished, but at the same time, confident about the future. And that's similar to his vision for Microsoft.

SATYA NADELLA: This high-tech business is just a fascinating business because by definition, it's not built for longevity.

HENN: Here, Nadella was speaking to a group of Indian entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley.

NADELLA: It's all about being able to re-invent yourself every second every day. If not, you're going to die.

HENN: Today, Bill Gates is stepping down as chairman of Microsoft and will take on a new role as Nadella's technology adviser. Nadella says he believes the next generation of innovation will be driven by companies and entrepreneurs who tease out valuable insights from huge amounts of data to help people and companies make better decisions.

NADELLA: If you don't have a real stake in the new, then just surviving on the old, I don't think, is a long-term game.

HENN: And while Satya Nadella's humble about Microsoft's past accomplishments, he insists reports of the company's demise have been exaggerated. Last quarter, Microsoft earned more in profits than Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Amazon and Oracle combined. Steve Henn, NPR News, Silicon Valley. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Steve Henn
Steve Henn is NPR's technology correspondent based in Menlo Park, California, who is currently on assignment with Planet Money. An award winning journalist, he now covers the intersection of technology and modern life - exploring how digital innovations are changing the way we interact with people we love, the institutions we depend on and the world around us. In 2012 he came frighteningly close to crashing one of the first Tesla sedans ever made. He has taken a ride in a self-driving car, and flown a drone around Stanford's campus with a legal expert on privacy and robotics.
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