Several days ago, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella gave his first in-depth interview at the Code Conference. He spoke about a wide range of issues and challenges that Microsoft faces. He also helped demo some impressive machine translation software (integrated into Skype).
Among the striking things Nadella said was that Microsoft had entered the “post-PC era.” Apple CEO Steve Jobs coined the term and you never would have heard that from Nadella’s predecessor Steve Ballmer.
Another contrast between the two CEOs is Nadella’s somewhat surprising, open ambivalence about the Nokia acquisition, which was championed by Ballmer:
Kara [Swisher]: Were you in favor of the Nokia deal when it was first struck?
Nadella: I’m not going to answer that.
It appears that Nadella sees Microsoft primarily as a software company, not an emerging “devices” company as Ballmer had. Accordingly, Nadella decided to release Office for the iPad, which had been held back by Ballmer. Nadella believes that Microsoft products and software must transcend specific devices and platforms and be broadly available.
Nadella said that in the hardware category he didn’t want to compete against Microsoft’s partners. He said, however, that from time to time Microsoft will build devices.
Surface Pro 3 appears to be a potential hit for the company. However, he suggested that Surface was a long-term commitment. He explained that Surface fell into an “emerging” category for Microsoft and the industry.
As Surface gets better and becomes a true laptop replacement — some argue that Surface Pro 3 is already — that will necessarily impact Microsoft’s OEM PC partners, which will be selling fewer PCs (already are). HP is an example of a company hard hit by “post-PC” consumer device preferences.
Nadella also told the conference that Microsoft must come up with a “next big thing” success for the post-PC era. Windows, Windows Server and Office are the company’s greatest hits. Now it needs another one. So does Apple, analysts argue.
On the question of whether Bing and Xbox would stay, he said yes to both and was very bullish on Bing. Nadella at one time lead the group responsible for Bing’s development and launch. He said that the company was investing heavily in both speech and predictive search, which would include recommendations.
There was no discussion about Cortana, apparently. However, the “virtual assistant” embodies these two initiatives and is a successor paradigm to conventional query-in-a-box search.
Nadella is well respected and in most ways more PR-friendly than his predecessor. He’s very much in the same position as Marissa Mayer over at Yahoo. He’s been given a honeymoon and will need to put his stamp on the company in the near future.
He’s got more flexibility and time, arguably, than she does – with billions more in quarterly revenue.