Satya Nadella is enjoying quite a start to his tenure as Microsoft CEO, with accolades from inside and outside of the company and a string of impressive deals. Most recently, the company announced a tremendous deal with SalesForce.com that I doubt ever would have happened under Ballmer.
But he made a few comments at the Code Conference, the show hosted by Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher formerly known as D Conference when the two worked for All Things D, that have left some people confused and scratching their heads.
First up was a question from Mossberg regarding Windows Phone.
Walt: What do you have to change that caused you to miss those turns. The smartphone was a pretty big deal. You were making them. You were making sort-of, kind-of smartphones. Then iPhone came along and Android came along.
Nadella: It's an interesting question, but should it be the one he is worried about? We have 4 percent global mobile market share. I think the question is what is the next thing that is going to make us better.
One of the writers on Seeking Alpha, which always comes at a story from an investor's point of view, felt this was a non-committal statement about Windows Phone, but the statement was so short and devoid of hints that you can basically read anything you want into it. You can see it as damning WP with faint praise, or simply Nadella saying there is no point in crying over spilt milk, so he’d rather move on and make it better.
Then came this:
Kara: Were you in favor of the Nokia deal when it was first struck?
Nadella: I'm not going to answer that.
Truth is, he wasn't, according to a very in-depth Bloomberg article from March. Nadella initially opposed it, as did Gates. Ballmer reportedly threw one of his monumental temper tantrums that could be heard across Puget Sound and actually threatened to quit if he didn't get the deal. The board should have called his bluff, if you ask me.
So if Nadella is stuck with a handset business he didn't really want, on top of the Surface continuing to look like a white elephant, he has a hardware headache on his hands. Nadella came from Sun Microsystems, so he isn't completely oblivious to the benefits of hardware/software integration.
Still, the lack of enthusiasm and support really makes me wonder if his heart is in this, or if it was just Nadella keeping his cards real close to the vest.