Leadership, Not Apple or AI, took Microsoft to No.1

Microsoft dethroned Apple last week as the richest company in the world as per market capitalization. Many assumed it was because of Apple slipping on a banana peel called China, with competition from Huawei and Xiaomi causing their tentpole product, iPhone 15, to lag behind in sales projections. (Even their freshly announced $70 discount is not expected to resurrect demand.)

Others supposed Microsoft’s ascendency was due to its dominant presence in the blast wave of AI in 2023, particularly as the majority shareholder in Open AI, the company behind ChatGPT and its successors.

Certainly, the numbers don’t lie. Apple has indeed stumbled, and you can’t argue with Generative AI being a gateway to enormous riches for developers.

But I believe the new status of Microsoft has been achieved through human leadership. With, for once, a piece of hardware and artificial intelligence playing second fiddle.

An Act Which Calmed The World

Sadya Nadella, the comparatively quiet head of Microsoft, has employed critical acumen, corporate statesmanship and uncanny clairvoyance, particularly in Q3 last year with his diplomacy from the wings of the Sam Altman show. He refused to be drawn into the brinkmanship that flavoured the dismissal of the OpenAI CEO. And in so doing, calmed the panic of investors and speculators alike.

Nadella’s restructuring of Microsoft, of which collaboration and external partnerships were at the heart, has paid off at a time when business disruption has been at its most turbulent. This year marks a decade that he has been at the helm of Microsoft. A fitting milestone for a man who evolved a company primarily known as the guys who came up with Windows. Which now stands at the epicentre of advancing AI technology. And this, without ever taking his eyes off the empowerment and promotion of talent.

The leadership decisions Sadya Nadella have made in his tenure have been those of a maverick. And have been flavoured with compassion and respect.

Three words foreign to the thought processes of artificial intelligence.

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