Although Satya Nadella is being widely praised as a terrific choice as Microsoft’s new CEO, he won’t be completely free of Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer, his two predecessors who will stay on at the company as a technology advisor and a board member, respectively. The very well-connected Bob Cringely writes that that Nadella would be wise to keep Gates at his side early in his tenure because he’ll need Gates to help him to get Ballmer to back off if he decides to diverge from the outgoing CEO’s plan to remake Microsoft into a devices and services company.
“Ballmer still owns 333 million Microsoft shares, has a huge ego, and that ego is likely to be invested at first in bullying Nadella toward following line-for-line the devices and services strategy Ballmer came up with last year that so far isn’t working too well,” Cringely writes. “If Nadella wants to veer very far from that path by, for example, getting rid of Nokia or making Microsoft an enterprise software company, only Gates will be able to stand between the two men and, frankly, spare Nadella’s job.”
Although this may sound overly gossipy, remember that Cringely made a name for himself by being Silicon Valley’s go-to gossip columnist and that Game of Thrones-style tales of palace intrigue are well documented at Microsoft. Cringely also confirms other reports that we’ve read about Ford CEO Alan Mulally being spooked about the prospect of having Gates and Ballmer watching over his every move, something that should be less of a problem for Nadella since he’s reportedly Gates’ preferred choice as Ballmer’s successor and because the two men apparently see eye-to-eye more often than not.
So what do all of these personnel moves mean as far as actual products go? Cringely sees Microsoft eventually realizing that Windows Phone will always be the world’s No. 3 mobile platform and will move more aggressively to get its software onto Android-based devices.
“Microsoft is fully entrenched in enterprise and the future success of enterprise will depend on the company’s ability to seamlessly integrate all its data center offerings with mobile clients,” he writes. “They can do that by being successful with Windows Phone except that won’t happen or they can embrace Android and do whatever it takes to make Android work beautifully in a Microsoft environment.”
Oh, and one more piece of gossip from Cringely that should soothe the nerves of gamers everywhere: He thinks that the Xbox is safe because Microsoft needs to have a winner in the consumer electronics space and the Xbox seems like it’s the only one for the time being.