Back around 1980, Bill Gates gave Microsoft, the company he cofounded, a very clear mission: “A computer on every desk and in every home.”
But Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, who started at the company as a programmer in 1992 and rose to the top job in 2014, thinks Gates’ famous mission had a big flaw.
“When I joined the company in 1992, we used to talk about our mission as putting a PC in every home, and by the end of the decade we have done that, at least in the developed world,” Nadella told USA Today in an profile published on Monday. “It always bothered me that we confused an enduring mission with a temporal goal.”
In other words, Nadella is saying, Gates’ vision for the future of Microsoft had a logical stopping point, yet it did not take into account what the company’s direction would be once the goal was achieved. Indeed, in the 2000s, under former CEO Steve Ballmer, Microsoft became better known for its efforts to preserve its control of the PC industry than for innovation.
Now, Nadella is a big believer in making Microsoft more driven by a sense of purpose — in 2015, he declared that Microsoft’s mission is “to empower every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve more.” And he’s encouraged the company not to rest on its laurels.
Under Nadella, Microsoft has taken the focus off Windows and the PC and pinned its hopes to the rise of the Microsoft Azure and Office 365 cloud computing products, both of which are growing as its older businesses stagnate. While this approach hasn’t translated into huge revenue growth yet, it’s revitalized the company’s image.
For his part, Gates tells USA Today that he “[enjoys] working with” Nadella, serving his twice-removed successor as a special advisor, and helping guide the company’s investments into cutting-edge technology as it competes with Apple, Google, and Amazon.