Reports as of the Monday morning after Thanksgiving 2013 suggest that the Microsoft board of directors has narrowed its potential selections to two: Satya Nadella, the current chief of servers and tooling at the company, and outsider Alan Mulally, who currently is in charge of the Ford Motor Company and is widely credited for executing a fantastic turnaround of operations, profits, and shareholder return after joining the company from Boeing, a corporate neighbor of Microsoft. ( Mulally denies he's interested in the Microsoft job, only heightening speculation.)
There are two main questions surrounding both the choice of chief executive and the immediate moves he makes in the first part of his tenure.
Will the new CEO continue the remake of Microsoft into a devices and services organization?
Steve Ballmer, the company's current CEO, has tried to convert the software company into an organization that makes a variety of devices, such as tablets and phones, which connect to services that Microsoft runs. This has been done both to make those devices more rich and useful for the end user but also to monetize that usage through enhanced upgrade services, advertising revenue and subscription profits.
Of course, this represents a big switch from Microsoft's traditional "pay us for the right to use this software in perpetuity" practice that propelled the business to its current height. Many investors and customers wonder if this transformation is beneficial to them. Will the new CEO elect to continue this transformation and carry on the vision of Steve Ballmer even after his departure? Or will the new CEO put pause on the progress and take a few months to assess whether that transformation is good for both Microsoft and its customers? The answers will have a big impact on the role Microsoft software and technology plays within your own business.
Will the cloud still be a huge focus of the company?
Will the continued preference of developing for Microsoft' cloud-based services versus its traditional on-premises software erode the trust of corporate customers who still have significant investments in their existing on premises licenses?
Nowhere is this tension more evident than in the Exchange community, where Exchange Server 2013 customers feel as if they are a distant second cousin to the Office 365 subscription data center environment. Complaints abound, from poor patch quality to irregular updates to features arriving in Office 365 but not Exchange Server 2013 for some time. These on-premises customers, paying many thousands of dollars for their combined server and client access license fees, feel shafted on their investment. Will this tension bleed over into other areas? Is the Exchange model the new model, warts and all, for the company's cloud focus? This is a trend to watch in 2014.
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