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5 of Satya Nadella’s greatest first year hits as Microsoft CEO

When Satya Nadella assumed the role of Microsoft CEO from the outgoing Steve Ballmer, the company had lost its way, especially in the operating system space. Its main cash cow wasn’t exactly mooing and the company’s hardware division was practically non-existent. So Nadella’s job was a big one.

But his first year at the helm of one of Earth’s biggest tech companies has been rather successful.

Marking a year since he took the reins today, we roundup the most inspired, most important and most impressive announcements, acquisitions and decisions that Nadella had overseen in his first year as Captain Microsoft.

1. Polishing the company’s Google Docs competitor, Office 365

Coming from a cloud computing background, Nadella knew what was wrong with Microsoft’s stagnant philosophy — the company just didn’t embrace new technologies quickly enough.

While Apple and Google made headway into emerging technologies, Microsoft was still languishing behind, and this is no truer in the cloud computing space. It’s true that Office 365 was conceived during Ballmer’s tenure as CEO, but under Nadella the product has matured into the enterprise and now household powerhouse it is today. It’s still nowhere near as popular as Google’s offerings, but it’s making headway into that previously monopolised space.


Why was this instrumental? Simply put, it allowed those who need Office to access it from any device, Mac OS X or Windows, and provided cloud storage space and free Skype minutes (and this is just for the consumer). It’s a great deal cheaper than full-blown Office as well if you’re not into paying for the entire suite once off.

What’s more, the Office for Windows 10 suite will be free on small tablets and smartphones running the company’s upcoming OS. Ballmer probably would’ve thought twice about that. Ultimately, it gives the end-user a reason to love Windows again, to paraphrase Nadella.

Read more: Microsoft Office for Android is now live, Outlook available for ‘preview’

2. Purchasing Mojang and subsequently Minecraft for US$2.5-billion

Minecraft maps

Purchasing the creator of one of the world’s most successful games was a decision that seemed curious at first, but it has blossomed into one of 2014’s great coups. It’s not all about Minecraft though.

Mojang’s cloud prowess brings a more sturdy base to the company branching out into the world, and Mojang‘s established user base is a good start. Additionally, isn’t Minecraft the next big cultural phenomenon?

Read more: Mojang sells itself to Microsoft for $2.5-billion, and here’s the reason why (besides money)

What was this instrumental? Well, appealing to the younger demographic is one of Microsoft’s goals with Windows 10 and the Xbox franchises — two of its most important platforms going forward. Associating with Minecraft might go a long way to solidifying that relationship with the youthful market. In essence, Microsoft’s cool again. And hell, the infrastructure (and the foreign base) that Mojang brings to the table isn’t half bad either.

3. Purchasing Nokia’s Devices and Services division for a cool US$7.5-billion

Lumia 625 rainbow

Another deal, another great deal.

Nokia‘s Devices and Services division wasn’t a healthy company when Microsoft swooped in and bought it last April. It was one of Nadella’s first moves, but the company had been taking an interest in the former phone giant for quite some time.

Nevertheless, the acquisition was an important one for both Nokia and Microsoft.

What was this instrumental? The acquisition introduced some much-needed “mobile-first” expertise into the company that focused primarily on PCs for much of its life. It also game Microsoft a platform on which it could build its own smartphone range, using the Lumia moniker. Think Apple’s iOS, Mac OS X and iDevice ecosystem, and you’ll have an interesting idea of what Microsoft could do with the Nokia acquisition.

Although the Nokia name lives on in cheaper phones, like the Nokia 215, Windows 10 should see that cross-device connectivity and ecosystem that we’ve been craving for quite some time.

Read more: It’s official, Nokia has got a new daddy… I mean owner

4. The yet-to-be-released but heavily hyped introduction of Windows 10

Windows 10

Without a doubt, Windows 10 has been the standout announcement of Nadella’s first year. The operating system embodies the CEO’s mobile and cloud first visions for the company, and hell, it’s a damn good OS too. For a Technical Preview, it’s ridiculously stable and slick and can only get better.

Addressing the UI issues and the enterprise unfriendliness of Windows 8 is Windows 10’s trump cards, and when the company announced that it would be free, that pretty much changed everything.

Why was this instrumental? The question should really read “why will this be instrumental?” For the reasons mentioned above, Windows 10 is the company’s apology for Windows 8. It’s also a giant push into the mobile computing space without upsetting desktop or enterprise users. With its Xbox integration, it’s also an OS for gamers and links the company’s two foremost products.

Additionally, the company is also branching out into markets and technologies that it hasn’t explored before, including the Raspberry Pi and Internet of Things.

Read more: HoloLens, Continuum and Cortana: Microsoft’s Windows 10 playbook

5. “Screw virtual reality, we introduce holographic reality with the HoloLens”

Microsoft HoloLens 1

And lastly, this roundup wouldn’t be complete without the most impressive and surprising announcement from the company in many years.

With the race to build augmented and virtual reality headsets infects the tech industry, companies like Sony, Facebook, Google and even Epson are all jumping on board. But Microsoft? It has leaped over all of them.

The HoloLens is a fighter pilot-like optical device that lets the wearer interact with virtual objects in the real world. This means playing Minecraft “for real” with the goggles on is an entirely new possibility. It looks brilliant and boasts such a vast array of potential applications, that it could be Nadella’s party piece for years to come, just like the iPad and iPhone was for Jobs.

Why was this instrumental? It’s a new genre of computing, if you will. It’s also practical, powerful and personal. Users can watch television series in their living rooms without having television screens. But more importantly, it seems that it has a vast breadth of applications from manufacturing to personal amusement.

It will be an exciting addition to the Redmond family and its integration with Windows 10 also shows how important the upcoming operating system will really be.

Read more: Microsoft’s HoloLens looks better than Google Glass, but can it escape the same fate?

Closing thoughts

As year one comes to an end, it seems that Nadella has had a pretty great 365 days in charge, but things will only get more difficult. As investors grow a healthy garden of faith for the CEO, any slip up will be detrimental to the business. But for the most part, the future looks good. There’s Microsoft’s push into all things mobile with Windows 10 and all things virtual with HoloLens. The Lumia range will expand too and who knows, Microsoft might be eying a few more high-profile acquisitions this year.

With Nadella’s cloud-first mindset, the company will become ever more accepting of the space while its offerings should consider both the enterprise and the end-user. And mobile will slowly become the company’s cash cow, but I wouldn’t bet on this happening overnight.

The future is looking good for Microsoft and Satya Nadella.

Author Bio

Andy Walker
Camper by day, run-and-gunner by night, Andy prefers his toast like his coffee -- dark and crunchy. Fuelled by his belief that PvZ: GW2 is 2016's game of the year, Andy also dabbles in the odd hard news story over on Memeburn. More
  • Great post David, I look forward to eating the extra pud with you at the pub in Montrose! We may even post a photo or two.

  • On a more serious note, I agree fully with David we should never stop entirely. We need to remember that this is social business, but note that social comes before business in the context, if we drop the social ball we lose the business ball entirely.
    Social is always about trust and what sustains that trust is consistency.

  • Great points, David! This should be required reading for Business
    Leaders, especially relevant for B2C marketers. By the way, the Mayan Calendar
    does predict a revelation rather than a catastrophe (if my reading is correct:-)
    It appears that what they are alluding to is a “global restructuring”
    – maybe they were aware of the Social Revolution! Anyway, hope retailers are
    taking your message to heart – there is no reason why anybody should be
    spending their festive season in shops rather than online !

  • I doubt I will be eating pud in the pub in Montrose 🙂 Thanks for the feedback Richard.

  • Thank you for your comment Nik!

  • Along the same theme, have a look at this article written by Judy Gombita (@jgombita) – Festive Byte: Views on When to Ho-Ho Them and When to Tranquilly Fold Them http://windmillnetworking.com/2011/12/20/festive-byte-views/

  • Good one David!

    The only problem with social media/SEO/Digital Marketing is that the internet never sleeps. It continues to move forward so it’s important to setup a schedule for your updates over this period if you are planning to lay low for a bit.

    In a connected world where everyone uses a smartphone/tablet, people expect that when they enquirer about something, they want an answer immediately. My advice: if you want to take a break from your social media strategy, make sure you have setup processes and notifications so that you can be notified immediately if anything happens that you should be aware of.

  • Feel free to share your holiday experiences with your community, unless that involves you drunk tweeting at 3am from the wrong account on your phone.

    Great article David.

  • Howsit Dave, great post and thank you for sharing your festive time insights. I love this time of the year – mainly because I get to see what brands execute in terms of their “off-peak” content strategy. It’s interesting to see hoe many brands shut down – some entirely, some stay on and while other attempt to speak to their disinterested audience at a futile attempt to keep the ball rolling. I think this time of the year can be capitalised on by brands who know how to play their cards right in the mobile space. I continuously drive creative teams to think mobile first – because of two things – 1) Because during this time, most of a brands audience is not sitting in front of their PCs, they’re out and about, shopping, spending time with family and friends or simply sitting in front of their TVs and 2) any creative executions that should be going out to the intended audiences to be easily interacted with and seen via a mobile phone. Just a thought…thanks again, Dave! Have a wonderful festive period.

  • Good advice Dave 🙂

  • Thanks David. Check out this article written by my colleague Judy Gombita (@jgombita). I am sure that she will welcome your comments: http://windmillnetworking.com/2011/12/20/festive-byte-views/

  • Very good advice, thank you Anton!

  • Hi Dave and everyone else reading these comments.

    Thanks for your article Dave, as well as sharing Judy’s article; both feature great tidbits of info we can all use to inform festive season digital strategies. At the risk of repeating some (or most) of the sentiments echoed below, I think the simple approach is this: if you’re serious about your marketing strategy being totally integrated, social media should not ‘slow down’ when your other marketing efforts maintain a normal (if not higher) frequency in their respective channels. To David Alves’ point below, mobile is the first screen and is going to see a surge in usage over the next 6-8 weeks, so ensure your mobile strategy is sound and in place ASAP.

    My thoughts are a blend of the comments below, above and on Judy’s article: don’t stop, just adapt. it’s a fun time of year for most of us, so what better way to humanise your brand? Show pictures and videos of your staff having a good time. If you manage an outdoor’s type brand, show fun and festive themed images of the products. Get people to show pictures of them using the product in the same vein. if you’re hosting a year-end function where your clients are involved, capture the moment and post a gallery for others to see just how much you value relationships with your customers (just obtain their (your client’s) consent first and be sensible about what you post, of course).

    I’ll stop there before I delve off topic and into content strategy…although the reality is content strategy is really what this is all about. I too am an avid MTB’er and cyclist, and to borrow Specialised’s mantra “Adapt or die”.

    Enjoy the festive period Dave (& everyone else); I hope to join you for a spin!


  • Adrian Lee

    haha, so cool. Nice, short and sharp tips. Good reminder, David, for those social media managers who are planning to engage in the ‘silly season’. Good holidays one and all!

  • Thank you Mr Lee! Have a good one!

  • Thanks Herman. Some interesting ideas you have posed.

  • As a digital citizen, the social era has me switched on 24/7 365 … though there are time when I consciously & willingly unplug and scale things back. But my expectations are that when I’m back, so too will be the services and resources I seek. That’s just the way it is. Managing the tone & tenor of conversations and content throughout the year remains important, as we respond to events that impact us personally and professionally. Life’s ‘curve balls’ don’t stick around for specific dates on the calendar.
    Does this make it easy for businesses and community managers? Nope. It’s hard and going to get worse. But there are no other options in a 24/7 365 world. The downside of the social era is here to stay.

  • Dot

    Brilliant advise, as always! Thanks David!

  • People like to follow people and that is why the brands that have been successful on social media are those that have portrayed a human face. Taking a break is human. Posting pics of holiday activities is human. While I agree that it is necessary to maintain some of your usual content I would rather encourage social media managers to include more ‘human content’ throughout the year because this would resolve the issue of not having much content over this time anyway. I would agree though to avoid those drunk 3am tweets that Mr Greenway refers to in his comment. 😉
    Thanks for the article David and enjoy your break.

  • Thank you Dot!

  • Thanks Greg 🙂 and thank you Mr Greenway for injecting some humour 🙂

  • Hi David,
    Great post and I think it exemplifies the personal connection that you have created with your network and it’s something that Social Media managers tend to forget.
    Enjoy the festive season and the scenery 🙂

  • Good suggestions and I am going to save this in the hope I do some of these things before I head off.

  • Great post! I think for some of us, these tips might not be as effective. In our office we are managing several different sites for multiple clients. And I’m not sure checking Twitter and Facebook once a week will cut it. Do you have any suggestions for busier organizations on how to manage social media sites?

  • Hi Jared. You are quite right. I was talking specifically about social media influencers that are quite visible. Managing a company’s social media is a different story! In your case you have to maintain your presence.

  • Thank you Richard!

  • And you Raj thank you !!

  • Geoff

    there are more spelling mistakes and grammar issues in this article than in my 10 year old sons homework – sis ! Quite enjoyed the thoughts, but kept getting put off by the rubbish use of English.

  • Noxin

    Staya wasn’t CEO when Nokia was bought out!
    It was Steve Ballmer!

    So it should be 4!

  • Derp Derpison

    It seems like your ten-year-old child has a better grasp of grammar than you do as well.

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