Of the rumored potential replacements for Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, there's one who is clearly the best bet: former Skype CEO and current Microsoft Executive Vice President Tony Bates. Here are six reasons he'd be the best choice.
He's got the right non-traditional outlook
The short list of candidates is filled with people who have the usual high-level degrees in technology and business as well. Bates stands out from the group because he's self-taught, with no degree, and yet has managed to become extremely successful. He dropped out of the mechanical engineering program at South Bank Polytechnic in Great Britain, took a job doing IT work for the University of London, and made the most of his commuting time, teaching himself C and UNIX.
From there, after several jobs he joined Cisco in 1996, eventually becoming senior vice president and general manager, in charge of the enterprise, commercial and small business divisions. He then became CEO of Skype, and came over to Microsoft when Microsoft bought the company. He managed to integrate Skype into Microsoft without pain or drama. Currently, he's executive vice president of Microsoft’s Business Development and Evangelism group, and head of the company's strategy team.
His background is an ideal fit for what Microsoft needs right now: Someone who took a non-traditional path to success, and would be willing to consider new paths for Microsoft.
He's mastered Microsoft's culture
Microsoft has a sometimes brutal corporate culture, and has chewed up and spit out more than its share of talented people who got caught in turf wars and cross-fires. Whoever is the new CEO will need to master that culture, and also change it. Bates has shown that he can do it. He came into Microsoft as an outsider with the unenviable task of integrating Skype with many existing business units. That meant impinging on others' turf in a turf-centric culture.
He's managed to make Skype essential to Microsoft's future, and integrated it into many different types of Microsoft's businesses, from enterprise-level communications units to consumer-oriented Office offerings and more. And he's done that without having to engage in public or private firefights. At Microsoft, that's quite an achievement. Microsoft needs a boss who can do that, and ultimately change the culture as well.
He's got technical chops
Bates might not have a degree, but he's certainly got the technical background to run Microsoft. At Cisco, he oversaw the development and launch of complex networking hardware and infrastructure. He hold 10 patents related to Layer 2 and Layer 3 network innovations and has published 12 IETF RFCs related to Internet routing and operations.
He's got the business smarts
At Cisco he managed approximately 12,500 people around the world, and oversaw a businesses with more than $22 billion of annual revenue. At Skype, he figured out ways to monetize what had previously been almost solely a free service. So he clearly has enough business smarts for heading Microsoft.
He's mastered communications and mobile tech
Microsoft has fallen behind in mobile and communications technologies, and with his background at Cisco and Skype, it's something he's clearly mastered. They're skills vital for whoever becomes Microsoft's new CEO
None of the other candidates are right
Finally, Bates is clearly superior to the other four rumored candidates for the job. Ford CEO Alan Mulally doesn't have a background in software and other technologies vital to Microsoft's future. Nokia CEO Stephen Elop hasn't exactly shined in his stints at Nokia and Boston Chicken. He also said that he'd be open to selling Xbox and Bing, which would be a serious mistake. Microsoft Chief Operating Officer Kevin Turner came to the company after a 20-year stint at Wal-Mart, and doesn't seem to have any tech vision. And Satya Nadella, executive vice president of Microsoft's Cloud and Enterprise group, doesn't have sufficient experience running large businesses.
Given all this,Microsoft would do well to choose Bates as the next CEO.