Steve Ballmer

I bet you haven’t seen this coming. Microsoft’s controversial and enthusiastic chief executive officer Steve Ballmer will retire within the next twelve months, the company said in a media release.

The company cunningly chose Friday to break the unexpected news so investors have the time to chew on the development over the weekend.

The Windows giant said Ballmer will retire as CEO upon the completion of a process to choose his successor. In the meantime, Ballmer will continue as CEO and will lead Microsoft “through the next steps of its transformation to a devices and services company that empowers people for the activities they value most”

Interestingly enough, Microsoft shares went up as much as eight percent in pre-market trading, making Ballmer himself $1 billion richer in the process and clearly indicating investors couldn’t be happier with the move.

The company quoted the outgoing CEO as saying:

There is never a perfect time for this type of transition, but now is the right time. We have embarked on a new strategy with a new organization and we have an amazing Senior Leadership Team.

My original thoughts on timing would have had my retirement happen in the middle of our company’s transformation to a devices and services company.

We need a CEO who will be here longer term for this new direction.

Note how Ballmer defines Microsoft as “a devices and services company” rather than a “software and services” company, which they used to say for years. The change of heart is actually part Microsoft’s recent sweeping reorganization effort and the streamlining of its many divisions in order to foster tighter collaboration between its teams.

Steve Ballmer (sits at the table)

The Board of Directors has appointed a special committee to work with executive recruiting firm Heidrick & Struggles International to direct the CEO search process. The committee includes Chairman of the Board Bill Gates and Ballmer himself, with Microsoft saying it will be considering both external and internal candidates.

Bill Gates said:

As a member of the succession planning committee, I’ll work closely with the other members of the board to identify a great new CEO. We’re fortunate to have Steve in his role until the new CEO assumes these duties.

A new CEO will be tasked with working with the company’s senior leadership team “to chart the company’s course and execute on it in a highly competitive industry”.

Remember how critics for years used to call Apple out for not making its succession planning public? After Tim Cook took over the helm it became evident Steve Jobs and Co. had been grooming a deep bench of next-generation of Apple executives.

The question is: does Microsoft have a succession strategy? From what I could glean from Gates’s words, looks like Microsoft hasn’t devised effective paths to a post-Ballmer Microsoft, especially now that it’s willing to consider external candidates for the top job.

Many watchers would agree that Microsoft under the outspoken CEO’s leadership has continued milking its Office and Windows franchise for what it’s worth, but failed to establish itself as the leader of the post-PC world.

Ballmer joined the Windows maker in 1980, becoming an employee #13 and the first real business manager. He succeeded co-founder and CEO Bill Gates who hired him in 2000.

With the exception of Microsoft’s profitable Xbox business, other segments have stagnated as Google with its Google Apps cloud office suite and Apple with its mobile and desktop devices continued chipping away at Microsoft’s share of the market.

Ballmer sent an internal email to staff explaining the move, here it is in its entirety:

I am writing to let you know that I will retire as CEO of Microsoft within the next 12 months, after a successor is chosen. There is never a perfect time for this type of transition, but now is the right time. My original thoughts on timing would have had my retirement happen in the middle of our transformation to a devices and services company focused on empowering customers in the activities they value most. We need a CEO who will be here longer term for this new direction. You can read the press release on Microsoft News Center.

This is a time of important transformation for Microsoft. Our new Senior Leadership team is amazing. The strategy we have generated is first class. Our new organization, which is centered on functions and engineering areas, is right for the opportunities and challenges ahead.

Microsoft is an amazing place. I love this company. I love the way we helped invent and popularize computing and the PC. I love the bigness and boldness of our bets. I love our people and their talent and our willingness to accept and embrace their range of capabilities, including their quirks. I love the way we embrace and work with other companies to change the world and succeed together. I love the breadth and diversity of our customers, from consumer to enterprise, across industries, countries, and people of all backgrounds and age groups.

I am proud of what we have achieved. We have grown from $7.5 million to nearly $78 billion since I joined Microsoft, and we have grown from employing just over 30 people to almost 100,000. I feel good about playing a role in that success and having committed 100 percent emotionally all the way. We have more than 1 billion users and earn a great profit for our shareholders. We have delivered more profit and cash return to shareholders than virtually any other company in history.

I am excited by our mission of empowering the world and believe in our future success. I cherish my Microsoft ownership, and look forward to continuing as one of Microsoft’s largest owners.

This is an emotional and difficult thing for me to do. I take this step in the best interests of the company I love; it is the thing outside of my family and closest friends that matters to me most.

Microsoft has all its best days ahead. Know you are part of the best team in the industry and have the right technology assets. We cannot and will not miss a beat in these transitions. I am focused and driving hard and know I can count on all of you to do the same. Let’s do ourselves proud.


I’m not sure what to think of the farewell memo.

At any rate, Ballmer selling Windows 1.0 immediately comes to mind.

This, too. Talk about the energy and enthusiasm.

And let’s not forget about this one, it’s gold.

I guess critics who’ve been slamming Ballmer for being an out of touch CEO are going to have a field day over today’s development.

Here’s a quick poll for you.

We know Scott Forstall is available.

So, is this the best news Microsoft has had in years?

  • Sokrates


    • GuyBey0ndC00L

      I agree, Ballmer was a terrible leader. Microsoft in the dark ages cause of this guy.

      • Brandon Weidema

        yes, a terrible leader that continued to make microsoft tons of money and still continue to grow the company.

      • GuyBey0ndC00L

        Microsoft would have made money with out with him easy. It wasn’t like they were doing bad before him. He was the rest of Microsoft need fresh faces.

      • At least Windows Se7en and the Surface Pro were two great products that were released while he was CEO. Hope someone with interest in software beauty becomes CEO…

      • GuyBey0ndC00L

        Windows 7 I agree with you 100%. Surface Pro I don’t think so. It’s not worth the money. Buy a laptop instead

      • Would love to know how you came to that conclusion. What makes the MacBook Air worth that money yet the Surface Pro, which offers everything the MacBook Air does and even more, in terms of both software (thanks to the flexibility of Windows) and hardware (thanks to its tablet form factor and digitizer touch screen)?

      • GuyBey0ndC00L

        Hmm (Laughing) I never mention MacBook or any Apple product I said (still laughing) LAPTOP. Surface Pro not worth the money sales prove that. For that price you can get a decent LAPTOP (<–KEY WORD) or spend a little more a get LAPTOP (again KEYWORD) with beautiful touch screen that does the same an more.

      • Sure you didn’t mention it straight, but guess what, that’s what it implied. Replace MacBook with a similarly priced Ultrabook and the same thing applies.

        There’s no Ultrabook (priced around the same as the Surface Pro) in Laptop form that offers more function; if anything, they offer less. Try using that vertical capacitive (don’t know of one with a digitizer) touch screen for either of the following:
        – Hand note taking
        – Form filling
        – Document signing
        – Hand drawing

        Increase processor power to the i7 range and the price sky-rockets. Can’t be expecting Microsoft to be pricing such high end hardware at the same price as low end tablets/atom-ultrabooks when others aren’t doing so.

      • GuyBey0ndC00L

        LAUGHING SO HARD AT YOU. I’m implying people buy a better WINDOWS 8 ( KEYWORD) laptop with (wait for it) TOUCHSCREEN. APPLE DOES NOT NOT MAKE TOUCH SCREEN LAPTOP. SO HOW CAN YOU IMPILY I’M TALKING ABOUT APPLE. WHAT ARE YOU READING LOL. For the same surface price you can get way more from a Windows 8 laptop. Windows isn’t the issue here, Surface Pro is not worth the money. Yes you can buy an Ultrabook for under $600 too. Surface Pro Price was originally $899, now its $799 for the 64GB version. If you can’t find a great Ultrabook in price range you should never shop period. Read first, before you try and troll me.

      • Lol, sounds like you only read the first paragraph…If you actually know how to read and aren’t just ignoramusly claiming BS out of nowhere, name/post-a-link-to an officially lower priced ultrabook that offers everything the Surface Pro does, including the tablet functionalities I mentioned above….

      • Raashid

        Lol, appears like you’re having a hard time finding such device that proves your blatant claims…way the go making a fool out of yourself.

  • Smfh

    LMAO! The second vid where goes crazy is like some deranged WWE wrestler.

  • Lance Baker

    That guy is nuts.

  • seyss

    good riddance

  • omrishtam


  • MHCsk

    I just wonder which drugs is he on.

  • Freddy Born

    Oh my god this is so embarrassing….

  • Ryuuichi

    Except in Nebraska.

  • Boss

    It’s like putting Mr Bean as CEO

    • CPVideoMaker101

      The funny part is that Mr. Bean would do a much better job than him.

  • Chindavon

    MS now has something to look forward to. It can’t come soon enough.

  • OMG

    hey when does cook retire?

  • Sputnik09

    ♫♫♫♫♫♫ Ballie, I love (NOT!) you so

    I want you to know

    that I’m going to miss your love (NOT!)

    the minute you walk out that door


    so please don’t go

    don’t go, don’t go away

    please don’t go

    don’t go, I’m begging you to stay ♫♫♫♫♫♫

  • batongxue

    Whoever is the next CEO, MS is back on track!!!!!!

    • Kaptivator

      I agree!

    • Vitaliy Anonymous

      I really hope so.

  • JulianZHuang

    while hes at it, take the nokia ceo with you.

  • M Last

    Microsoft is going down,don’t matter who will be CEO
    this is my opinion

    • Kaptivator

      However the stocks are up almost 7 and a half % after the announcement…

  • JT

    Employe 30 *

  • Vitaliy Anonymous

    Well written article, Christian. As someone who enjoys Microsoft products, I feel that we need some fresh new CEO, or have Bill Gates back.

  • 3aloo1

    Is he on Drugs or drunk or what?

    • Stephen Michael Simon

      All of the above. Could you imagine is this was how the Apple Keynotes were presented? lol

      • 3aloo1

        Thank god that steve jobs or bill gates doesnt have the same reactions

  • laszlo gaspar

    I think it’s great that 28% of people (including me) would be happy to have Scott Forstall as Microsoft’s CEO. Windows 9 (skeuomorphism).