Microsoft – as you’ve no doubt heard by now – has a new CEO. Satya Nadella most recently was Microsoft’s executive VP, cloud and enterprise group. But before that, the man who succeeds Steve Ballmer, he was senior vp, R&D, of online services and before that, the senior vp of search, portal and advertising group. Nadella has been at the company since 1992.
The man who succeeds Steve Ballmer has been referred to as the King of Bing, rebranding the search service from Live Search to Bing and getting kudos for making technical fixes. Announcing his promotion to president of Microsoft’s Server and Tools Business in 2011, Ballmer wrote in a memo that Nadella “led the overall R&D efforts for some of the largest online services and drove the technical vision and strategy for several important milestones, including the critical launch of Bing, new releases of MSN, Yahoo! integration across Bing and adCenter, and much more.”
During his tenure leading the online services group, Microsoft search engine Bing stretched its wings to drive more semantic searches. Writing in the Bing Blog at the launch of the Bing preview in 2009, Nadella talked about how its new features — aimed at anticipating searcher intent and assisting consumers with queries by focusing on relevance, quality of results and direct access to answers — were driven thanks to steps Microsoft took that included investing in technologies and algorithms for extracting structure from unstructured data and applying organizational taxonomies. He also spoke of the work it did to enrich its index by developing technologies in HTML parsing, core Natural Language Processing, entity extraction, and document classification, among other technical capabilities.
While Bing’s reliance on schema.org markup was still a few months away at the time of Nadella’s move to the cloud and enterprise group, while he was in charge Bing continued to unveil new features such as AutoSuggest, Search Assist, Browse Plus, Facebook integration, and helping users filter images by features such as color and composition.
Some have expressed disappointment that Microsoft is choosing as its new CEO someone who isn’t positioning the company for radical change. Nadella’s expertise in tackling information overload and helping users leverage search engines to manage complex tasks and make decisions, however, seems to make him just the right choice to lead the company in realizing a vision of a seemingly semantically-influenced future that Ballmer laid out this past summer in an email and memo to Microsoft employees. (The Semantic Web Blog reported on that here.) Ballmer wrote then of driving high-value experiences for consumers, and reinventing decision-making and task completion for users – efforts that will require Microsoft to innovate in providing people with insight and assistance to fulfill their anticipated needs, leveraging, he said, “the massive amount of data available over the Web. Bing, Excel and our InfoNav innovations are all important here.”
Bill Gates, who also is stepping down as chairman, perhaps put it best in this news release: “During this time of transformation, there is no better person to lead Microsoft than Satya Nadella. Satya is a proven leader with hard-core engineering skills, business vision and the ability to bring people together. His vision for how technology will be used and experienced around the world is exactly what Microsoft needs as the company enters its next chapter of expanded product innovation and growth.”