Microsoft doesn’t have quite the money in the bank that Apple has (just under $100 billion as opposed to the more than $200 billion at Tim Cook’s disposal), but it has plenty to fund many, many years of experimentation as the Windows and Office cash cows slim down. The Steve Ballmer era at Microsoft was characterized by a protect-the-queen mentality that didn’t lose its grip until Satya Nadella succeeded him as CEO in early 2014.
It’s easy to denigrate some of the initiatives started or accelerated during Nadella’s tenure so far as the acts of a copycat, but the shift from “devices and services” has freed the Redmond giant to expand from its core while rethinking how it manages that core. When Microsoft has one of the best email clients running on Apple’s iOS, something profound has changed. Nadella is operating, in a no-longer-Microsoft-centric tech world, with interoperability on his mind.
He has overseen free versions of Office for both leading mobile platforms (neither of them Microsoft’s). And making the latest version of its flagship Windows OS free for existing users will make millions of computers more secure and help developers optimize for one modern platform. Harvard’s John Kotter once wrote of Ballmer’s plans, “Good luck trying to accelerate with those anchors hanging on the corporate ship,” and Nadella has the same anchors to contend with.
But 30 years after Windows launched, it’s fascinating watching him try to make ’em float.
To get stories like this every day, subscribe to the NewCo Daily.