Partners: New Microsoft CEO Nadella Must Quell Channel Angst


David Powell, vice president of TekLinks, a $100 million solution provider based in Birmingham, Ala., breathed a sigh of relief that Microsoft COO Kevin Turner was not named to the top job.

"Nadella is a relative unknown to me," said Powell. "That is likely a positive. I haven't been a big fan of Turner's and didn't want him to see him get the job. He is a gifted businessman, but Microsoft is not the type of company that would benefit from his style. Running Microsoft is a really big job. For the new CEO to be successful, they must adapt quickly to changing business models and consumption models, innovate and create great products, focus their efforts on the places they can win, and embrace the partner channel. Those are the things that made Microsoft great.

"Let's face it, the past few years Microsoft hasn't led -- they have followed, and slowly," continued Powell. "They haven't been nimble enough to respond to the market. They haven't innovated and created products that people really want. They have lost their focus by concentrating on Bing and Xbox and they have done many things to upset the partner channel, such as its Office365 strategy. Microsoft is a great company. The world's businesses run on Outlook, Word, Excel and PowerPoint. They need to focus on what they are really good at and stop getting into fights they can't really win, such as search and mobile phones. So, I'm optimistic about Nadella, only because I don't have any information to make me think otherwise. But he certainly has his work cut out for him."

Christopher Hertz, CEO of New Signature, a Washington D.C.-based Microsoft partner, said he was hoping Microsoft would promote someone from within to replace Ballmer.

"I was hoping they'd pick someone from inside," he said, applauding the decision to name Nadella as CEO. "I'm interested in continuity."

Hertz noted that as head of Microsoft's cloud and enterprise group, Nadella has overseen development of the products and services that have represented the vendor's biggest growth areas in recent years, including cloud computing and server platforms.

Nadella's appointment is also a return of sorts to Microsoft's engineering roots, he said. "At its core, where Microsoft will win over the next decade will be in innovation."

Douglas Grosfield, president and CEO of Xylotek Solutions, a Microsoft Silver partner, said he was somewhat surprised by the Nadella appointment given that the Microsoft veteran has "always been a behind-the-scenes kind of guy."

"I say, why not Satya Nadella?" said Grosfield. "He has proven himself as a quiet and soft-spoken leader in many areas of what has really been his sole employer for the majority of his working life, as a relatively young man. He certainly knows the company, its divisions and products, and has been instrumental in many areas of import from the partners' perspectives, such as server systems, cloud, Office etc., but has some proving to do on the mobile front as yet."

Grosfield also applauded the move to have Gates play a bigger role in the technology strategy as Nadella takes the helm. "That is great news for all concerned," he said. "Gates' vision and leadership, even as a mentor role to Satya if that is the motivation, will ensure a successful transition and minimize disruption to the consumer, corporate clients and partner ecosystem."

RICHARD WHITING, ROBERT WESTERVELT, ROB WRIGHT & STEVEN BURKE contributed to this story.

PUBLISHED FEB. 4, 2014