Microsoft’s changing of the guard held the spotlight at the company’s shareholders meeting on Wednesday.
Chief Executive Satya Nadella and Chairman John Thompson oversaw a scripted affair touting the company’s progress in cloud computing, hopes for the Windows 10 operating system, and efforts to create a more inclusive company.
Steve Ballmer, used to spending his time on stage during his 14 years as chief executive, was seated in the second row, firmly in his new role as the company’s largest individual shareholder and National Basketball Association team owner. Bill Gates was absent because of illness, Thompson told a shareholder after the meeting. And many of the questions from the audience involved issues of diversity and access to technology, rather than the no-longer stagnant share price.
Diversity, an issue for Microsoft and the technology industry as a whole, took up much of the question and answer session after the company’s presentation. The Rev. Jesse Jackson, fresh off a meeting with Nadella and other Microsoft officials on Monday, encouraged Microsoft to disclose more data on the makeup of its workforce.
Nadella, who drew fire for comments in October that women don’t have to ask for raises and should have faith in the system, was explicit in his comments that the company is pushing to be more inclusive.
“We’re focused on ensuring that Microsoft will be the best place to work for smart, curious people across cultures, genders, ethnicities and lifestyles,” Nadella said.
Nadella said in response to Jackson’s comments that Microsoft would disclose its federal diversity data form by the end of the month.
Investors have largely bought into Microsoft’s broader pivot in strategy under Nadella. The company is focusing on following technology consumers beyond the company’s Windows flagship, taking such steps as broadening access to its Office suite on devices made by competitors and allowing developers access to portions of a key software development platform.
“We’re making smart and disciplined decisions,” Nadella said. “And most importantly we’re taking bold action to step forward.”