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Microsoft's new CEO and his first-100-days plan

Gregg Keizer | Feb. 6, 2014
Corporate strategy experts spell out what Nadella should do to kick off his tenure, and kick Microsoft into gear

From everything he said Tuesday, whether in an email to employees or a short interview, Nadella is behind Ballmer's "devices and services" strategy, believes that the company can be a major player not only in the enterprise — its historic and still biggest strength — but also in the consumer market, and looked forward to the addition of Nokia's handset business. All those moves by Ballmer, the last after he had announced his retirement, have been criticized by Wall Street, industry analysts and other pundits.

There was no hint yesterday that Nadella will rock the boat, will produce a dramatically different strategy, or even a new execution of that strategy.

His biggest contribution Tuesday was to the discussion about innovation, and then simply because he used the word so frequently. He called on it or a derivative three times in his email, four times in a short video the company posted on its website, seven times in a 16-minute staged interview.

What goes on behind the scenes over the next 99 days will be more important than what Nadella said yesterday. "The corporate brand is more than just the communicating, it's also baked into the company, and its business practices and operations," said Gregory. "If [Nadella's] vision can take hold and have long-lasting effects, the culture and business process and communications all work hand-in-hand to grow the brand."

But Nadella will be graded by everyone on his first few months, Ottinger contended, whether its employees looking for clarity on their priorities or investors trying to decode Nadella's progress.

Ottinger was upbeat about the new CEO's chances. "I'd be a bettor on Microsoft," he said. "I'm a total believer that Microsoft has got the capability, the skills, the partners, everything to really take it to the next level."

Time will tell. But that time is short.


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