Microsoft Corp. named Satya Nadella chief executive, tapping an insider steeped in business technology to speed up a turnaround at the pioneering software maker.
Nadella, 46, is replacing Steve Ballmer effective immediately after a five-month search, Microsoft said in a statement Tuesday.
Bill Gates, the company's first CEO, will step aside as chairman, devote more time to product development as a director and continue running his philanthropic foundation. John Thompson, the director who led the CEO search, becomes chairman.
The new chief executive, who was born in India and joined Microsoft in 1992, takes over at a critical juncture. Consumers and businesses are shunning PCs in favor of handheld devices made by rivals, sapping demand for Microsoft's flagship products.
Besides playing catchup to the likes of Apple Inc. and Google Inc., Nadella will be tasked with completing strategy changes begun by Ballmer last year. That includes the $7.2-billion integration of Nokia Oyj's handset unit and turning Microsoft into a provider of services and hardware.
"He's really the complete package -- he has incredible intellect, but he also combines that with a deep curiosity and willingness to learn," said Doug Burgum, who sold business-software developer Great Plains to Microsoft in 2001 and oversaw Nadella while at the Redmond, Wash.-based company.
Much will depend on the role of Microsoft's board, where former chief executives Gates and Ballmer will remain directors. Nadella is also joining the board as its 10th member.
Thompson, the former Symantec Corp. CEO and International Business Machines Corp. executive, also brings a new perspective.
The transition at Microsoft follows the worst decline on record for PCs in 2013, when shipments dropped 10 percent, and they are projected to languish through 2017. Microsoft's revenue growth has averaged 9.4 percent in the last 10 years, compared with 24 percent during the prior period.
Microsoft shares fell 0.36 percent to $36.35 Tuesday.
The new CEO will oversee a sprawling empire of 130,000 employees once the Nokia acquisition closes in the next few months.
Meet the New Boss
Name: Satya Nadella
Born: Hyderabad, India
Family: Married for 22 years; he’s known his wife since high school. Three children.
Hobbies: Reads books, takes online courses. “I buy more books than I can finish.” Reads poetry. “It’s like code,” he says. Grew up playing cricket and enjoys watching Test cricket, which can go on for days.
Career: Member of technology staff at Sun Microsystems. Joined Microsoft in 1992 to help build Windows NT while finishing MBA on weekends.
In 2001, became responsible for Microsoft Business Solutions’ research and development, promoted to leader of MBS in 2006. In 2008, named senior vice president of search, portals and advertising. In 2011, named president of Microsoft’s server and tools business.