Can India-born CEO Satya Nadella Save Microsoft in Post-PC Era?

Microsoft, the world's largest software company, has named Satya Nardella, an Indian-American company veteran of 20 years, as its new CEO to replace its long-time leader and Bill Gates' pal Steve Ballmer. It's clearly a matter of great pride for not only his fellow Indian-Americans in the United States but also in India, Nadella's country of birth. I offer my sincere congratulations and best wishes to Mr. Nadella and his fellow Indians who are celebrating it as their own success. The question on everyone's mind now is whether he has what it takes to bring back the Wintel-era glory to Microsoft.

Wintel Era:

Wintel (Windows+Intel) represented the most successful period for Microsoft and its partner Intel when the two companies together made history with the personal computer revolution. Working for Intel as an engineer in 1980s and 1990s, I had a chance to work with both Microsoft and Intel executives to help bring about the PC revolution. Both companies offered products that worked well together to address the needs of hundreds of millions of PC users in that period. Both companies enjoyed phenomenal growth and high profit margins. I met Bill Gates several times in the two decades at frequent Intel-Microsoft executive meetings. I also got a chance to work with other Microsoft executives including Paul Maritz, Rob Glaser, Nathan Myhrvold, Carl Stork and others.

One particular incident with Bill Gates that I remember was at the 80486 CPU launch event at McCormick Place in Chicago. Gates insisted on doing the 80486 CPU demo at the event. Gates was a real geek at the time. He showed up wearing a rumpled shirt. His hair was uncombed. As he began the rehearsal under a spotlight aimed at the stage, he started complaining that he couldn't see under its glare. Intel marketing manager suggested to him to not look directly into the light to avoid it. Somehow we got through the rehearsal and, later, the actual launch in front of the media and the analysts went quite well.

The Wintel duopoly enabled both Intel and Microsoft to increase performance, bring down prices and still enjoy unprecedented profitability in the computer industry. Dave House, Executive VP at Intel in charge of microprocessor business, put it best when he told me and my fellow 80386 CPU engineers in 1985 that "making 80386 microprocessor chips is like printing money". He went on to explain that "it costs more than 10 cents for the US govt to print a dollar bill but Intel's cost of printing 80386 chips is less than 10% of its average selling price". I believe Microsoft made even bigger profits with DOS and Windows operating systems and PC applications in 1990s. 

RISC Challenge:

Wintel partnership came under severe strain in 1992-93 when Microsoft decided to build its Windows NT operating system to run primarily on Reduced Instruction Set Computing (RISC) processors from DEC and MIPS. Intel's CISC (Complex Instruction Set Computing) X86 architecture-based processors were considered by many as old and uncompetitive relative to RISC. RISC processors came with a reduced set of simple instructions executable within a clock period, lots of registers, more cache memory and powerful compilers which Intel x86 based CPUs lacked at the time. Intel responded to the challenge by offering much higher clock rates, larger cache memories, improved instruction pipelining, multiple execution units and highly optimizing compilers which made more efficient use of the limited number of registers and better instruction scheduling on the Intel processors. I was assigned the role of a program manager at Intel to work with Microsoft to optimize Windows NT for 80486 at the time. It was interesting to watch the competing arrogant management styles of the two companies on full display during this effort. Needless to say, Intel beat back the RISC challenge and went to become the world's largest and most profitable chip company.

PC Era Over:

The world has dramatically changed since the 1990s when Wintel ruled the roost. PC is no longer the dominant device. Smartphones and tablets have brought the era of mobile cloud computing where neither Intel nor Microsoft enjoy leadership position. Even developing like Pakistan are deploying cloud computing applications. A Google sponsored survey in Pakistan found that mobile computing is expected to overtake desktop computing this year. Several new and more innovative and powerful players have emerged to in this market. It is this new reality that stares Staya Nadella in the face.

Decline of Empires:

In a recent New York Times column, Nobel Laureate economist Paul Krugman compared the decline of Microsoft to the fall of the great empires of the past. Drawing upon the lessons of Medieval Muslim historian Ibn Khaldun, Krugman wrote:

"How could Microsoft have been so blind? Here’s where Ibn Khaldun comes in. He was a 14th-century Islamic philosopher who basically invented what we would now call the social sciences. And one insight he had, based on the history of his native North Africa, was that there was a rhythm to the rise and fall of dynasties. Desert tribesmen, he argued, always have more courage and social cohesion than settled, civilized folk, so every once in a while they will sweep in and conquer lands whose rulers have become corrupt and complacent. They create a new dynasty — and, over time, become corrupt and complacent themselves, ready to be overrun by a new set of barbarians. I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to apply this story to Microsoft, a company that did so well with its operating-system monopoly that it lost focus, while Apple — still wandering in the wilderness after all those years — was alert to new opportunities. And so the barbarians swept in from the desert". 


Krugman's comparison of today's Microsoft with ancient dynasties seems to make a lot of sense. The "Wintel" dynasty is being overthrown by hordes representing cloud computing "barbarians and tribesmen" at Apple, Google, Amazon and a whole bunch of other tech companies. Can  a Microsoft lifer like Staya Nadella, steeped in Microsoft's established culture, fend off the "barbarian at the gates"? If I were a betting man, I'd say No! But let's wait and see.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Minorities are Majority in Silicon Valley

Mobile Internet in South Asia

Pakistan Deploying Mobile IT Apps

Emerging Nations Deploying Cloud Computing Faster

Mobile Internet to Overtake Desktop in 2014 in Pakistan

Biometric Information Technology in Pakistan

Power Theft in Pakistan

Mobile Banking in Pakistan

Mass Literacy Through Mobile Phones

Online Education in Pakistan

Pakistan's Telecom Revolution


Riaz Haq said…
#Pakistani-American NEDian Rehan Jalil's Cloud Security Startup Elastica Comes Out Of Stealth With $6.3M From Mayfield via @techcrunch

Elastica, a cloud security startup launched in 2012, is coming out of stealth mode with $6.3 million in Series A funding from the Mayfield Fund. The startup is also launching its new apps that offer real-time threat detection and even post-incident forensic analysis.

As more enterprises embrace SaaS and other cloud-based services, they are increasingly feeling the need to have a different approach to security beyond just traditional firewalls. This shift means over $2 billion annual market for cloud security vendors like Elastica. As Gartner noted last year, the highest growth is forecast to occur in cloud-based tokenisation and encryption, security information and event management (SIEM), vulnerability assessment and web application firewalls.

Elastica joins a fast growing club of cloud security startups promising to combine data science and in some instances even machine learning tools to help companies and employees secure SaaS data. There’s huge investor interest in the segment and some of the biggest names in the enterprise software world are backing many of these startups.

Elastica was founded in 2012 by Rehan Jalil, former CEO of WiChorus, which was sold to Tellabs for $165 million in 2009.
Riaz Haq said…
"The very agenda of social sciences, why and how change occurs in society, was mapped by Ibn Khaldun who produced a coherent body of analysis of why societies rise, peak, and wane. Ibn Khaldun spread himself across so many disciplines and spheres of work, one wonders how so many activities fit into a single CV. Ibn Khaldun was born in 1332 in Tunisia to a family with a tradition of diplomatic service in Spain and the Maghrib, and he initially followed in his family’s footsteps into a diplomatic career that took him to act as lead negotiator in several diplomatic missions, but he fell from favour at court and chose to move to Egypt where he served as a senior judge until his death in 1406."

Ibn Khaldun’s definition of entrepreneurship, such as it is, works well, however. It is anchored in his outlook as a devout Muslim who finds guidance in all things in the Koran. A merchant “strives to make a profit, so that he may spend what God gives him to obtain his requirements and necessities through barter.” This sentence flows so smoothly one might skim over the reference that a merchant’s profits have their source in “what God gives him.” However, the connotation of these words resonates deeply, as the Koran has a term for God’s bounty, rizq, a term which may be the origin of the term we use today to describe that aspect of enterprise that is the quintessence of entrepreneurship: risk.

This whistle-stop tour of Ibn Khaldun’s Muqaddimah is but a sampler of his work but may have said enough to show Ibn Khaldun pushed the boundaries of historical scholarship out into social science. In Europe, Ibn Khaldun’s works reached a wider audience when they were translated in the nineteenth century, at a time when social sciences in Europe even then were in their infancy. But even today, Ibn Khaldun’s work has aged well and his insights often are as fresh as they were when he penned them.

It may have startled some readers to see Ibn Khaldun articulated many notions centuries before they were expressed in the West. The Laffer curve is one example, but there are others, such as John Marshall’s dictum, “the power to tax is the power to destroy (1819),” and William Graham Sumner’s “forgotten man” who ends up bearing tax burdens (1883).

But Ibn Khaldun matters not only as an ideas man ahead of his time. Ibn Khaldun lived through an age of frequent regime changes that threatened corrosion of the Islamic realm from within, and foreign invasions visited devastation across the Middle East. Ibn Khaldun lived in an age of despair but did not much care for a quiet life. On the contrary, he wanted to look threats in the eye, and one of his travels took him to an encounter with the feared warlord Timurlan, a meeting that Ibn Khaldun recorded at length in his autobiography (another of his vast range of works).

If turmoil had an effect on Ibn Khaldun, it must have been as a spur to learn about different societies, and what is urgent today about the achievement of Ibn Khaldun, who did not flinch from engaging with policy-making at the highest (and most dangerous) level, is that he demonstrated how to combine firm religious orthodoxy with irrepressible curiosity in mechanisms of social change.

Dr. Benedikt Koehler is a historian and former banker, specialising in early Islamic economics. Koehler delivered the inaugural lecture for the Legatum Institute’s “History of Capitalism” course.
Riaz Haq said…
Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg has committed to reading an important book every two weeks as part of his 2015 New Year’s resolutions, and up next is “The Muqaddimah,” a 14th century tome written by Islamic historian Ibn Khaldun.

The book, whose title translates to “The Introduction,” traces the progress of humanity while attempting to remove the biases captured in historical records and reveal the universal elements that connect us. It is often considered the most important Islamic history of the premodern world.

Kaldun, a lauded Arab scholar, is credited as one of the foundational thinkers of modern sociology, ethnography, and the philosophy of history.

One reviewer of the original English translation called it, “Undoubtedly the greatest work of its kind that has ever been created by any mind in any time or place … the most comprehensive and illuminating analysis of how human affairs work that has been made anywhere.”

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s 2015 New Year’s resolution was to read an important book every two weeks and discuss it with the Facebook community.

Zuckerberg’s book club, A Year of Books, has focused on big ideas that influence society and business. His selections so far have been mostly contemporary, but for his eleventh pick he’s chosen “The Muqaddimah,” written in 1377 by the Islamic historian Ibn Khaldun.

“The Muqaddimah,” which translates to “the introduction,” is an early attempt at stripping away biases of historical records and finding universal elements in the progression of humanity.

Ibn Khaldun’s revolutionary scientific approach to history has established him as one of the foundational thinkers of modern sociology and historiography.

The influential 20th century British historian Arnold J. Toynbee described “The Muqaddimah” as “a philosophy of history, which is undoubtedly the greatest work of its kind that has ever yet been created by any mind in any time or place,” according to the Encyclopedia Britannica.

Zuckerberg explains his latest book-club pick on his personal Facebook page:

It’s a history of the world written by an intellectual who lived in the 1300s. It focuses on how society and culture flow, including the creation of cities, politics, commerce and science.

While much of what was believed then is now disproven after 700 more years of progress, it’s still very interesting to see what was understood at this time and the overall worldview when it’s all considered together.
Riaz Haq said…
Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal's Old Tweets Shared Without Context
In the now-controversial tweet, Agrawal quotes comedian Asif Mandvi from The Daily Show by Jon Stewart.

After Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey stepped down as the microblogging website's chief executive officer (CEO), the company announced that Parag Agrawal, who was the chief technical officer, would take Dorsey's place at the helm of the company.

Shortly after the news broke, an old tweet from Agrawal's verified Twitter account started doing the rounds on social media, which appeared controversial in its nature.

Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal's Old Tweets Shared Without Context
In the now-controversial tweet, Agrawal quotes comedian Asif Mandvi from The Daily Show by Jon Stewart.

After Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey stepped down as the microblogging website's chief executive officer (CEO), the company announced that Parag Agrawal, who was the chief technical officer, would take Dorsey's place at the helm of the company.

Shortly after the news broke, an old tweet from Agrawal's verified Twitter account started doing the rounds on social media, which appeared controversial in its nature.

In the tweet, Agrawal states, "If they are not gonna make a distinction between muslims and extremists, then why should I distinguish between white people and racists. (sic)"

Agrawal's tweet was shared across social media platforms, where Indian users criticised him for being "woke" in their posts.

The tweet was picked up by many right-wing outlets in the United States (US) and a few members of the Republican Party quote-tweeted Agrawal criticising him.

But we saw that Agrawal's now-controversial tweet from 11 years ago had quotation marks around it and looked for more context around the tweet.

What Was Agrawal Talking About?
We looked at Agrawal's Twitter timeline, filtering using Twitter Advanced Search to obtain more tweets from around the same time – October 2010.

By doing so we came across a reply from Agrawal's account around 12 minutes after the said tweet, where he noted that he was quoting comedian Asif Mandvi from The Daily Show.

We also came across a tweet by CNN journalist Andrew Kaczynski, who noted that Agrawal had quoted a "Daily Show segment that aired that night about stereotypes." The tweet further stated that it was a joke on absurd stereotypes and wasn't a factual statement.

The full episode of 'The Daily Show with Jon Stewart', which aired on 15 October 2010, discussed the firing and Williams' statement where he said that he is 'little scared when he saw people dressed in 'Muslim garb' on airplanes.'

Around the nine-minute mark in this video, Mandvi remarks on having fun with discriminatory treatment on airlines and says the following, which is a near-match for Agrawal's now-controversial, out-of-context tweet:

Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal shared a quote from a segment from The Daily Show with Jon Stewart nearly 11 years ago, where comedian Asif Mandvi was commenting on the unfair treatment that Muslims (or people of colour) are subjected to while travelling by air in the US.

The tweet is being shared by people across social media platforms to claim that Agrawal is a racist person, and a section of users are of the opinion that such a person should not be put at the helm of a public platform.

Riaz Haq said…
New Twitter CEO (Parag Agarwal) highlights struggle to halt India's brain drain - Nikkei Asia

Rupa Subramanya is a researcher and commentator. She is a distinguished fellow of the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada and the co-author of "Indianomix: Making Sense of Modern India."

I identified the fact that most of these success stories typically involve people with graduate degrees, training and work experience all acquired in the U.S. Well trained in mathematics, fluent in English and at ease in the American business culture, Indians are able to transition into leadership roles much more comfortably than many other Asian-born corporate executives in the U.S., including those born in China.


But the success of Indians on Wall Street, Silicon Valley and in Ivy League colleges is both a glass-half-full and a glass-half-empty story.

On the one hand, Indians excel in the meritocratic American work culture, but on the other, they are escaping a stiflingly bureaucratic, crony-driven, inefficient work culture back home where innovation and creativity are often punished rather than encouraged and rewarded. With the notable exception of several prominent recent startups, mostly in the tech sector, the biggest Indian conglomerates are typically headed by their founders or their descendants.

These push and pull factors driving talented Indians to the U.S. are revealed dramatically in official statistics. Using data from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and a reply to a question in the Indian Parliament, my analysis shows that from January 2014 to September 2021, a little under 1 million Indians have given up their passports to acquire foreign citizenship. Indian law does not allow multiple nationalities, so those giving up their passports are doing so because they have acquired citizenship elsewhere.

Of those giving up their Indian passports from 2014 to 2019, the years for which we have comparable data, more than 30% on average were giving up their Indian citizenship to become naturalized Americans. In 2019, the year before the pandemic, that was a whopping 45%. In other words, almost half of those giving up their Indian passports were acquiring American ones.

China, which also requires those citizens who obtain citizenship of another country to relinquish their Chinese passport, has seen no such exodus. Data from the DHS from 2003 to 2019, the last year for which data is available, shows a consistently higher number of Indians becoming naturalized every year compared to Chinese-born immigrants.

On average, 40% more Indians became naturalized in a given year than Chinese, bearing in mind that China has a larger population than India. In 2019, a whopping 64% more Indians were naturalized than Chinese. Given the large number of Indians giving up their passports in the last couple of years, that percentage may even tick up a few more points when the latest U.S. numbers become available.

This reality of a mass exodus of talent from India is not new, a phenomenon that goes back to the 1960s. However, it is a far cry from the optimistic free-market rhetoric of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his early days in office, when his main slogan was "minimum government, maximum governance."

Modi convinced many at the time that India would once again be a land of opportunity, as it had been in the mid to late 2000s under the previous Congress-led government when the economy was growing at nearly double digits, prompting many Indians to return home with some even giving up the coveted American green cards. That hope soon faded against the backdrop of corruption scandals that helped usher Modi to power in 2014.
Riaz Haq said…
Infosys founder NR Narayana Murthy says IITs have become victims to rote learning due to coaching classes

As more and more students leave India for higher studies, Infosys founder Narayana Murthy proposed that governments and corporates should “incentivise” researchers with grants and provide facilities to work here. “The 10,000 crore per year grants for universities under the New Education Policy will help institutions become competitive", he said.

Infosys founder NR Narayana Murthy on Tuesday expressed concern over India’s education system saying that even the IITs are becoming a victim of learning by rote due to the “tyranny of coaching classes.” Murthy suggested that our education system needs a reorientation directed towards Socratic questioning.
The Infosys founder, who himself is an IIT alumnus, batted for Socratic questioning in the classroom in order to arrive at solutions to real-world issues. “Many experts feel that (in) our country, (there is an) inability to use research to solve our immediate pressing problems around us… (this) is due to lack of inculcating curiosity at an early age, disconnect between pure or applied research," he said.

As to what could be done to solve this, the 76-year-old suggested that the first component is to reorient teaching in schools and colleges towards Socratic questioning in the classroom to solve real-world problems rather than passing the examinations by rote learning. Socrates was a fifth century (BCE) Greek philosopher credited as the founder of Western philosophy.
Speaking at the 14th edition of the Infosys Prize event in Bengaluru, Murthy said that the nation’s progress on the economic and social front depends on the quality of scientific and technological research. Research thrives in an environment of honour and respect for intellectuals, meritocracy and the support and approbation of such intellectuals from society, he noted.

Riaz Haq said…
Neither Indian nor Pakistani universities make the top 100 world rankings. 

All Indian-American CEOs here have studied in the US and earned advanced degrees in America without which they wouldn't advance. 

I bet these CEOs are a lot more rational than most of the Indian grads from IIT or anywhere else in India. 

These CEOs wouldn't make it to the top in America if they spewed the kind of hate and bigotry that is the norm in India.
Riaz Haq said…
India is about to surpass China as the world's most populous country.

India has overtaken China in terms of the US F-1 student visas issued.

Graduate programs in STEM and business fields at US universities are dominated by Indian and Chinese students.

100,000 Indians and 56,000 Chinese students have been issued US F-1 visa in 2022.

Most Chinese students go back to China while the vast majority of Indian students stay in the US for employment after graduation.

So it makes sense that some of the top Indian students graduating from US universities rise to become CEOs of tech companies.

Riaz Haq said…
Hiring for top positions occurs mostly from within the company.

People like Parag Aggarwal, Satya Nadella and Sundar Pichai rose to these positions after working at Twitter, Microsoft and Google for many years.

All of them came to the US to study before being hired to work at these tech companies.

The probability of such promotions is a lot higher if there are lots of Indians coming out of US grad schools and working for these companies.

Currently, there are 199,182 Indian students and just 8,772 Pakistani students enrolled in US universities.
Riaz Haq said…
Why #Indians don't want to be Indian #citizens anymore? More than 1.6 million Indians have renounced their Indian citizenship since 2011, including a whopping 225,620 in 2022 alone, averaging around 618 per day. #Modi #BJP #Hindutva
#chaos #anarchy

"The principal reason why people migrate is economic well being. Everyone wants a better life and their hope is that they would find it in another country," Amit Dasgupta, former Consul-General of India in Sydney, told IANS.

"In sociology, this is referred to as 'the push factor'. You are pushed out to a place which offers better prospects," Dasgupta said.Many Indian students who go for higher studies abroad also end up settling there as these countries provide them better jobs with attractive pay scales.According to the latest Education Ministry data, more than 770,000 Indian students went abroad to study in 2022 -- a six-year high.

Also, many Indian students find it tough to find jobs after returning home, which is why they apply for permanent residency in their country of study.

More than 90 per cent of the students do not wish to come back to India, say estimates.When it comes to India's rich, they want to swim in foreign waters to diversify their fortune, set up alternative residencies, conduct business and pursue a better quality of life even though India continues to be an attractive environment for business activity and corporate growth.

A 2020 Global Wealth Migration Review report said that among many reasons why people make the decision to migrate to other countries is safety of women and children, lifestyle factors like climate and pollution, financial concerns including taxes, better healthcare for families and educational opportunities for children, and to escape oppressive governments.A low passport score of a country can also make individuals emigrate.

A higher passport index ranking ensures one gets better access to travel visa-free to many countries.The Indian passport registered the largest global fall in the Passport Index 2023 -- ranking at 144th position this year with a mobility score of 70.

This means Indians can travel to 21 countries visa-free, and need a visa for 128 countries.In contrast, a Greece or Portugal residency card provides Indians visa-free travel across all Schengen countries.

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