Summary:

All eyes and ears will be on Satya Nadella, now in his third month as CEO, on his first appearance on the Microsoft earnings call.

It’s not exactly a shocker that Satya Nadella will anchor Microsoft’s third-quarter earnings call Thursday, but folks will be listening carefully to what he has to say — expecting him to hold fast to his broad strategy of device independence, as long as those devices hook into Microsoft’s Azure cloud. His predecessor, Steve Ballmer, was not a fixture on these calls. As one insider put it, the former CEO was too much a “loose cannon” for what the company always hopes will be a closely controlled event.

What would be surprising is if Nadella deviated from his cloud-first-mobile first messaging. Wall Streeters don’t expect Nadella, an engineer, to delve into the niceties of foreign currency and tax rates — CFO Amy Hood will handle that. But they do want to hear about broad strategy, and perhaps a continued commitment to the “One Microsoft” mantra rolled out last summer by Ballmer and reaffirmed by Nadella in his first email to employees as CEO in February. That re-org was aimed at nuking structural silos and infighting at the famously fractious company.

Satya Nadella, Microsoft CEO

Satya Nadella, Microsoft CEO

Nadella has to negotiate a tricky passage. On the one hand, he’s pledging support for non-Windows devices — last month Microsoft finally announced Office for iPad and Android. (Some say the new tablet-oriented version of Office is dumbed down, but that’s another story.) On the other hand, traditional Windows and Office and on-premise versions of SQL Server, Sharepoint, etc., continue to pay most of the freight. Scott Guthrie, the long-time Microsoft vet who is now the executive vice president in charge of Azure, will discuss progress on this front at Structure in June.

In (somewhat) related news, Ford CEO Alan Mulally, once a primary contender for Microsoft CEO, will hand the reins over to Ford COO Mark Fields before the end of the year, according to the Wall Street Journal (reg required). In January, Mulally said he planned to stay at Ford till the end of 2014, so this looks like an accelerated changeover.

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