Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Who’s the Next Microsoft CEO?

Over more than 35 years, Microsoft has had 2 CEOs – Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer. With Steve Ballmer’s retirement announcement, Microsoft is preparing for CEO number 3. The whole world is watching to see who that will be. As it stands, it appears it will be someone from the outside.

Tony Bates, CEO of Skype was a contender, especially since Microsoft bought Skype.  Bates now has a sense of the company culture and vision.  However, he has been removed from the list. There is concern that he has not run a large public company. And he was CEO of Skype for one year.

Stephen Elop, CEO of Nokia is another top contender, especially since Microsoft bought Nokia’s phone business.  At the same time, there is concern about his unimpressive performance while running Nokia. 

At the top of the list is
Alan Mulally, CEO of Ford. He is held in high regard because he changed Ford’s culture and restructured it. Furthermore, Ford was the only US car manufacturer that did not receive government funds to stay in business. He is applauded for being a great CEO. In fact, Ballmer approached Mulally to discuss how to get rid of silos and change culture. Therefore, some believe he could replicate the same results at Microsoft.    

While these are the facts about Mulally, he is 68 years old. Second, Microsoft is in trouble. In 2009, they controlled 70% of all Internet connected computing devices. Because of Android and Apple, today that number has dropped to 24%. This is a sign they have become less relevant. And there does not seem to be a clear and effective plan for how they will regain their relevance.  

Even if Mulally becomes Microsoft’s CEO and makes them more profitable by cutting jobs and selling off business units, that has no impact on marketplace relevance. Microsoft needs a successor who is committed to innovation. It would have to be someone who knows how to make an impact in the marketplace by creating valuable and relevant products and services.

While there are many who could fit that description, Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors is an executive who is committed to creating the future now. And he knows how to bring the right people together to successfully complete projects.

If Microsoft were really smart, they would buy Tesla Motors, in the same way Apple bought Pixar. By buying Pixar, Apple inherited Steve Jobs. Microsoft buying Tesla would be a wise decision because it would allow them to compete in the next frontier of mobility – automobiles. Apple is already working with auto manufacturers to include their technology in vehicles. And Google is working on a self-driving car.

By purchasing Tesla, Microsoft could have a head start on Apple and Google. They would have an opportunity to implement new technology that could revolutionize the driving experience. In addition, much of that same technology could be transferable to the home experience. As iPad purchases grow, Microsoft is losing its place in the home. 

Under Musk’s leadership, Tesla Motors has exceeded expectations. Many people did not believe they would sell as many expensive electric cars. Musk has proven to be an effective visionary leader who has the strong marketing savvy needed to accelerate revenue growth.

In 2007, Apple introduced the iPhone. Microsoft ignored it and called it irrelevant. That same year, I wrote an article called Why German Luxury Makers Should Be Afraid of Chrysler. Chrysler has squandered that opportunity. On the other hand, Tesla Motors is positioned to exploit it. If Microsoft ignores this new frontier, they should be prepared to bring Bill Gates back to revitalize Microsoft.

What do you think? I’m open to ideas. Or if you want to write me about a specific topic, let me know.

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