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Why Nadella is the smart CEO pick to lead Microsoft

commentary Former Microsoft exec Brad Silverberg explains why insider Satya Nadella is the perfect person to lead the company into 2014.

Microsoft's Satya Nadella speaks at LeWeb 2013 in Paris.
Microsoft's Satya Nadella speaks at LeWeb 2013 in Paris.
Stephen Shankland/CNET
Editor's note: This is a guest post by Brad Silverberg, whose bio is below. CNET invited him to write about Microsoft's new chief.

Satya Nadella is the right choice for Microsoft CEO. Only the third CEO in the company's history, after Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer, Nadella takes the reins during a pivotal year for Microsoft, perhaps the most important year in the company's history. 2014 is the year that Microsoft needs to get right.

The world has been changing fast the past five years. Technologies such as social, mobile, open source, and the cloud -- and products like the iPhone, iPad, and Android -- have completely transformed the tech landscape. Intense platform wars are raging as companies such as Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Twitter maneuver to establish and maintain leadership in this next generation of computing and communication.

The winners get to drive new standards and reap massive riches, power, and influence, as Microsoft did in the 1990s and early 2000s with Windows, Office, and the PC platform. Microsoft largely has been absent from these new platform wars, and its diminished position in the industry reflects that.

Satya has reinvigorated Microsoft's server and tools business. He's done a remarkable job getting Microsoft to move fast on the cloud and begin staking out a strong position against difficult competitors, such as Amazon. Most of all, he recognized that the world has changed and that to be relevant and become a leader again, Microsoft needs to embrace those changes and offer solutions for customers that fit in that new world. Whereas once open source was regarded as a cancer at Microsoft, Satya has found a way for Microsoft to add value while supporting new standards, like Linux, Hadoop, Ruby on Rails. It's exciting to see Microsoft play well in this new world and offer differentiated solutions.

Relevancy, not longevity, is what Satya said was important. I couldn't agree more, and when I read those words from him, I knew he was the right person to lead the company in this critical next stage.

There's no time to waste. As a 22-year veteran of Microsoft, Satya can hit the ground running. He already has the trust of Gates and the rank-and-file employees. He knows how to make the sometimes Byzantine Microsoft organization sing. An outsider would take the next year learning the issues and establishing his legitimacy. Microsoft has not been kind to execs brought in from the outside, making such a choice ever riskier. Microsoft doesn't have time for that; 2014 is the year when it needs to set the trajectory up and to the right, and Satya is the man to do that.

Kudos to the board for working through a difficult process and getting the right person.