Nadella will have the chance to do this in April when the company holds its Build Developer Conference in San Francisco. He needs to make it clear that it's worthwhile to invest the time.
This is one big advantage he has over Ballmer; Nadella can speak the developers' language, recognize their challenges and conjure up the right motivations.
Better articulate the benefits of Windows 8
Judging from the slow uptake of Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 operating systems, it seems customers don't get it and don't buy it all that much despite the pending end-of-life for Windows XP. And as XP use is going down, Windows 8/8.1 use is on the rise, but many of the former XP users are adopting Windows 7 instead.
The learning curve for Windows 8 is just too much for many customers, especially those coming from a mouse-and-keyboard environment. It wouldn't hurt to have an easily flipped switch between the Windows 8 touch environment and the Windows 8 desktop environment so those reluctant to accept change can avoid it and remain productive. The simple truth is that for many tasks touch a strength of Windows 8 isn't necessary. And since Windows 8 is meant to embrace both touch and keyboard-and-mouse, both should be readily accessible.
Microsoft has made strides toward this in moving from Windows 8 to Windows 8.1, but there needs to be a sharper divide.
Meet with Nokia's Stephen Elop
Nadella won the CEO job at Microsoft and Stephen Elop didn't. Since Elop is the top Nokia executive coming on board with the acquisition, Nadella needs to sit down with him and determine whether there is a hatchet to bury and then bury it.
Nokia and its phones and phablets are an essential part of Microsoft and it's important for Nadella and Elop to work together. They've got to come up with mobile hardware that meets customer needs as they move away from PCs and toward tablets, and instill them with features that show off the unique aspects of Microsoft's mobile-first/cloud-first strategy.
Elop's team is facing challenges as it comes onboard; its chief designer chose to leave the company to pursue entrepreneurial goals rather than be part of the Microsoft acquisition. Elop doesn't need more pressure from an awkward relationship from Microsoft's CEO.
Tap the Microsoft skunkworks
Microsoft has R&D in lots of areas that aren't locked to a product with a business plan. Nadella should explore what's there, select some exciting possibilities and turn loose some creative juices backed by an endorsement from the top.
Bill Gates has been tapped to spend time with product teams to mine for gems, and he's a great asset, but Nadella himself should find some time to spend on this task to demonstrate its importance.
The company is often knocked for becoming stodgy, slow to move and behind the innovation curve. This could be a way to shake some of that stigma and perhaps even come up with the next big thing.
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