Confirming the most recent rumors, Microsoft went inside and chose 22 year veteran Satya Nadella as the new CEO. Perhaps more interesting is that board member John Thompson becomes Chairman:
Thompson has been a member of Microsoft’s board for two years. He has also been leading Microsoft’s CEO search for the past five months-plus. (In a new video clip of Thompson, which Microsoft posted today, Thompson claims Nadella was the search committee’s “first and unanimous choice” after reviewing all the CEO candidates.)
True or not, it behooves them to say so.
He is the CEO of Virtual Instruments, a company that manages virtual-physical cloud migrations and an investor in a handful of early-stage tech companies in Silicon Valley. Thompson also served as CEO of Symanec for ten years, through 2009, and on Symantec’s board until 2011. Before that, he held a variety of management positions at IBM in sales, marketing, software development for a variety of products including (somewhat ironically), OS/2.
The irony is rich in the tech business. As for Bill Gates, he and Steve Ballmer are still board members and Gates has a new title of Founder and Technology Advisor with a reported commitment of a third of his time to meet with product groups. We’ll see.
Even as Microsoft is poised to name a new CEO — it has been reported that the company will name insider Satya Nadella, head of its cloud and enterprise group — the process leading up to the announcement has emerged as, quite literally, a textbook example of how not to do CEO succession.
This isn’t how it’s supposed to work. Microsoft is a corporate aristocrat, albeit an eccentric duke, for which succession should be smooth, non-controversial, and unsurprising. Instead, at least 17 candidates were publicly speculated upon; leaks from employees and some of the candidates themselves competed for advantage in the media; a few presumed candidates, some of whom may never have been candidates at all, publicly disclaimed interest in the job; and Isle of Man bookies offered odds on the eventual winner.
And after the circus leaves town, some lucky person gets to clean up the mess left behind. Well, I’m sure he will be well compensated.
As had been promised, Microsoft last night launched their new advertising campaign featuring comedian Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Gates. Developed by "bad boy" ad agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky, the intent of this campaign was supposed to be to make Microsoft look "cool" and counter Apple’s PC vs Mac ad campaign. Take a look at the TV commercial played during last night’s National Football League season opening game and see whether you think it does that:
Frankly, it reminds me of the infamous Microsoft Zune scratching dog commercial – some minimally amusing goofiness that all but screams "bathroom break" to TV viewers and no significant mention of Microsoft or its products. Other reactions:
I’m sure CP+B will be reminding their nervous client today that advertising is directed at consumers, not tech bloggers, but I suspect they’ll have to come up with something more than that to put lipstick on this pig.
Update: Here’s the Microsoft spin on the new ad campaign and you know you are in trouble when they start hyping "conversation":
These initial ads are the first in a creative campaign by the award-winning advertising agency Crispin, Porter + Bogusky, designed to spark a conversation about the Windows brand – a conversation that will evolve as the campaign progresses, but will always be marked by humor and humanity.
For more "conversation" blather see also the associated video interview with Microsoft CVP of Windows Consumer Marketing, Brad Brooks. When the flacks are talking "conversation", I am always reminded of Nicholas Carr’s diatribe on the subject:
Who exactly crowned "conversation" king? A handful of self-absorbed bloggers banging away at their little keyboards? Conversation isn’t king. Good products and services at fair prices are king – always were, always will be. Which would you rather do business with – a company that delivers great goods but has no interest in buttonholing you into some pathetic excuse for "a conversation," or a company that sells you crap but is great at conversing? Well, duh.
Microsoft would do well to heed his advice.
Update: Microsoft SVP Bill Veghte joins the conversation conga line in a letter to Microsoft employees.
Crispin Porter + Bogusky missed the rumored July start date of their $300 million "Microsoft is cool" advertising campaign, but Suzanne Vranica and Robert A. Guth at the WSJ have hints as to what to expect when it finally arrives on September 4th:
Microsoft Corp., weary of being cast as a stodgy oldster by Apple Inc.’s advertising, is turning for help to Jerry Seinfeld.
The software giant’s new $300 million advertising campaign, devised by a newly hired ad agency, has been closely guarded. But Mr. Seinfeld will be one of the key celebrity pitchmen, say people close to the situation. He will appear with Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates in ads and receive about $10 million for the work, they say.
It’s always possible that this may be a stroke of genius, but somehow it doesn’t seem promising. Reinforcing that impression is the further rumor that the theme of the campaign is supposedly "Windows, Not Walls" and will stress "connecting people and ideas." I just hope they didn’t talk Mr. Gates into another goofy future digital lifestyle demo like he used to give at CES (cf. 2006 and 2007- they were hyping connected experiences then too), although that might work if they played it for laughs.
I would also observe that the original buzz was that the focus of the campaign was to be all of Microsoft’s consumer products, but this seems to be a Vista exclusive.