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Satya Nadella promises customers a 'people-centric IT'

In his first live comments as Microsoft's CEO, Nadella doesn't offer specifics but pledges to listen carefully to customers, partners, and investors.

Satya Nadella in Webcast on first day as Microsoft CEO.
Only a few hours on the job as chief executive of Microsoft, Satya Nadella showed he can talk generalities with the best of them. In what was billed as a Webcast for partners and customers, Microsoft's newly appointed CEO spent about 15 minutes outlining broad contours of a strategy that essentially promised more of the same -- but with an ear close to the ground.

Earlier today, Microsoft brought an end to six months of rumors and speculation and announced Nadella's appointment as its next chief executive. As part of the announcement, Bill Gates, who quit as chairman, said he will step up his participation in Microsoft affairs as a "technology advisor" to Nadella.

Offering a vision of a "people-centric IT," Nadella said Microsoft would strive to create products and services where "the end-user gets the experience they want and IT gets the control that they want."

To be fair, few would expect Nadella, who just became one of the most important business executives in the world, to have immediate answers. And if he has specific ideas about how to carry out course corrections, a public forum -- in this case a Webcast anyone in the world could access -- was not going to be the setting.

Still, he did offer general hints of what a Nadella regime might include. He talked about a "mobile-first, cloud-first" strategy, in which software would be at the core of everything Microsoft approaches. Again, that's not a departure from the cloud and devices strategy that Steve Ballmer -- and Nadella -- have articulated over the past several months.

But this was an appearance to reassure outsiders that Microsoft was carrying out an orderly transition. In keeping his prime audience in mind, Nadella also pledged to "bring new partnerships to bear as we approach new scenarios" without going into detail. He said that his "Day 1 priorities" would involve making sure the company was in close touch with "customers, partners, and investors." Clearly, the new boss, who will have a lot to sort out, will not need as much time to get up to speed as a CEO who had been hired from the outside.

All the same, Nadella carefully managed expectations in his cameo as Microsoft's new leader.

"I've got a lot to learn," Nadella said. "I've spent a lot of time in Microsoft but there will be parts of Microsoft that are new to me."