Microsoft has named company insider Satya Nadella as its next chief executive officer, ending a protracted search for a new leader.
The 22-year Microsoft veteran called the appointment "humbling" in an email to the company's employees. He is only the third CEO in the firm's 39-year history, following co-founder Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer who announced his intention to retire in August.
Nadella led the creation of Microsoft's Internet-based, or "cloud" computing, services and has been an executive in some of the company's fastest-growing and most-profitable businesses, including Office and its server and tools business.
The 46-year-old said in a videotaped statement that he would focus on "ruthlessly" removing any obstacles to innovation at the company.
Microsoft also said in a statement that John Thompson, lead independent director, would succeed Gates as chairman, who will assume a new role as technology adviser while retaining a seat on the board.
"Satya's asked me to step up, substantially increasing the time that I spend at the company," Gates said in a video statement. "I'll have over a third of my time available to meet with product groups. It'll be fun to define this next round of products, working together."
The Nadella appointment came after a search committee led by Thompson gave itself a year to find a new CEO, but the process took longer than most had expected. Sources said Ford CEO Alan Mulally was a leading contender for many months until he recommitted himself to the automaker in early January.
Nadella beat various other candidates for the job. Several were close to the company, like Stephen Elop, who is set to rejoin Microsoft when its acquisition of Nokia's handset business closes, and Tony Bates, the former Skype boss now in charge of Microsoft's business development.
Investors and analysts are already weighing how effective Nadella will be in reigniting the company's mobile ambitions as Microsoft faces the slow erosion of its PC-centric Windows and Office franchises.
The consenus is that the firm needs to somehow to challenge Apple and Google in the new realm of mobile computing.
"While we view Mr Nadella as "the safe pick" (vs. an outsider, Mr Elop) as Microsoft continues down the right lane of the highway at 55 mph with its new CEO in hand, the fear among many investors is that other tech vendors from social, enterprise, mobile, and the tablet segments continue to easily speed by the company in the left lane of innovation and growth," FBR analyst Daniel Ives said in a research note.