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Microsoft Chairman Says Company Must Focus Under Nadella

Microsoft Executives
John Thompson, chairman of Microsoft Corp., center, speaks, as Satya Nadella, chief executive officer of Microsoft Corp., left, and Steve Ballmer, former chief executive officer of Microsoft Corp., listen at Microsoft's Studio D building in Seattle, Washington, U.S., in a handout photo made available to the media on Feb. 4, 2014. Source: Microsoft Corp. via Bloomberg

Microsoft Corp. Chairman John Thompson, who led the recent search for a new chief executive officer that resulted in the appointment of Satya Nadella, said the challenge facing the software maker is how to direct the company’s ample resources in the right direction.

“The issue for us is, quite frankly, about focus,” Thompson said in an interview with Bloomberg Television. “One of the reasons we chose Satya Nadella is he has a strong technology background. He understands exactly what needs to happen to move Microsoft forward.”

Thompson, who has been a Microsoft board member since 2012, replaced co-founder Bill Gates as chairman earlier this month at the same time that Nadella was named CEO to succeed Steve Ballmer. The appointments amounted to a changing of the guard at the Redmond, Washington-based company, which is the world’s largest software maker. Ballmer and Gates remain on Microsoft’s board, with Gates spending more time on company strategy.

Thompson said he never envisioned being chairman and plans to spend much of his time mentoring Nadella, who he described as “young and aggressive and open-minded.”

While Thompson praised Microsoft’s cloud programs like Azure and Office 365, he said the company needs to focus “on how we become even more relevant to consumers.” He said it will be “interesting” to see how Nadella “augments” the devices and services strategy that Ballmer unveiled more than a year ago, partially to address that issue.

Thompson also said not to expect a strategy discussion at the company’s regular March board meeting, Nadella’s first as CEO. Still, Nadella will update the board on his strategy in the “not-to-distant-future,” Thompson said.

Thompson serves as CEO of Virtual Instruments Inc., a San Jose, California-based maker of software that tracks application and hardware performance. The company had anticipated going public this year, he said, and while such a step is possible in the second half, it will more likely take place in the first six months of 2015.

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