"The refocus on products and developers is a founding theme of Microsoft's DNA; that ensures an ever-improving customer experience going forward," he said via email. "The 'mobile first, cloud first' theme is on-target. This is no longer a PC-centric world, especially in emerging countries."
In a report published in May marking Nadella's first 100 days at the helm, a team of Forrester Research analysts concluded that "he's not a caretaker of 'business as usual' but rather a change agent who has put Microsoft on a bolder path."
"Give away the Windows runtime to drive adoption? Check. Release a native Office app for Apple's iPad? Check. Support Git and other popular continuous delivery tools on Azure? Check. These and other Nadella actions ensure that Microsoft's fortunes will improve," they wrote.
While the vision is pretty clear, the question is whether the execution will be on target, according to Gartner analyst Merv Adrian. "Microsoft now needs to drive its vision into everyday familiarity; people need to know what this will mean to them," he said via email. "The execution will manifest itself in marketing communications, pricing, and how it manages its salesforce. All of those are work in progress and hard to assess at this point."
A departure from Ballmer
With his business acumen, Ballmer was the right CEO for his time, but with the mobility and cloud computing revolution, Microsoft now needs someone with the technology edge and vision that Bill Gates had, according to En Pointe's Hogan.
Ballmer was bashed during his last years for not responding quickly and effectively enough to the explosion in smartphone and tablet adoption, and to the popularity of cloud computing, in particular software-as-a-service (SaaS).
"At the start of the Ballmer years, Microsoft looked like an innovation company. At the end of the Ballmer years, it looked more like a sales and marketing company," said David Johnson, a Forrester Research analyst, via email.
While Ballmer harvested the success of past innovation through sales and marketing efforts and via a "fast-follower" development strategy, Nadella is setting the stage for new innovation and a quest for leadership, which is a return to Microsoft's philosophical roots, according to Johnson.
Embracing a cross-platform approach
Nadella has been credited with leaving no doubt that under his command, the "Windows first" philosophy of protecting the OS franchise at all costs to other products is no longer in place.
Nadella's first major launch as CEO was the native Office apps for Apple's iPad, a move that Ballmer seemed, for a long time, reluctant to make, possibly out of fear it would hurt Windows and to a lesser extent the fledgling Surface tablets.
Sign up for Computerworld eNewsletters.