Microsoft says CEO Steve Ballmer will retire from his job as CEO sometime within the next 12 months. He’ll stay on as leader of the company until Microsoft chooses a replacement.

Ballmer’s been with Microsoft fore more than 3 decades, and he’s been CEO of the company since Bill Gates stepped down from that position in 2000.

Steve Ballmer

In a press release, Microsoft says until a successor is found, Ballmer will continue to lead Microsoft in its “transformation to a devices and services company.”

The personal computer industry has changed pretty dramatically in the last few years, and Microsoft has been trying to ride those changes. It’s flagship software products such as Windows and Office have gone through some pretty radical changes recently, adding support for touchscreen interfaces, ARM-based processors, and cloud-based features.

Meanwhile, after years of success in the hardware world with its Xbox video game consoles, Microsoft has been trying to break into other hardware spaces, first with portable media devices like the Zune, and more recently with Surface tablets.

As PC sales decline, it makes sense for for Microsoft to hedge its bets by moving into hardware, focusing on mobile software such as Windows Phone, and its own cloud and subscription services including Bing, Outlook.com, and Office 365.

Ballmer has seen the company through those transitions so far. A lot has changed since Bill Gates stepped down as CEO 13 years ago.

But with increasing competition on all fronts from companies such as Apple, Google and Facebook, it’s not surprising to see Microsoft seeking fresh leadership. Last year the head of the Windows division left Microsoft. Now it looks like Ballmer is up next.

For his part, Ballmer says now’s the right time for him to step down, because the company needs a CEO who will be around long-term to oversee the transition to a devices and services company. Just because he’s on the way out and someone else is on the way in doesn’t mean we should expect dramatic changes in the future. We’ve already seen some dramatic changes.

It doesn’t look like Ballmer is being forced out, and he’ll even play a part in choosing his successor. But he won’t be the guy in charge a year from now.

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16 replies on “Steve Ballmer to retire from Microsoft CEO job (within 12 months)”

  1. The Theatrical CEO Steve Ballmer is leaving MS finally!
    MS debacle with Windows Surface RT and WP-concept have neither been a success story.
    Without Nokia WP would have been forgotten.

  2. Why give him 12 more months to dig the Micro$oft hole deeper? Show him the door today. Repeat – I H8 Win8…

  3. Good Riddance to Ballmer…

    Now a new CEO must please clean up the idiotic middle management fighting each other like sith lords.

    Maybe projects that could have been Microsoft’s iPad long before Apple came out with one won’t be sidelined.

    And maybe focus could return to actual customer needs, rather than pie-in-the-sky corporate strategy, tollbooth addiction and monopoly retention. This kind of corporate behaviour is exactly what’s making customers look elsewhere.

  4. Ballmer leaving might help but their problem is bigger. The problem was there was no more ‘up’ for them around the time Gates retired, which was why the stock has been flat since. Now there is nothing but down for at least a decade.

    Lets set the wayback machine to 2000 shall we? They dominated 90% of the computing industry, holding a virtual monopoly position in operating system and office productivity. They even had the potential to seize a majority of the server market, remember Netcraft had them commanding a very significant percentage of all webservers and growing. But WallStreet doesn’t reward a tech company for reaping monopoly rents, they expect tech company growth rates and Microsoft couldn’t really grow from ‘owning the world.’ So they blew through billions and billions trying to buy a seat at the table in game consoles with the Xbox and in phones/devices. Doubtful the Xbox has turned a net profit yet and devices have been a total disaster. And at any rate, none of that has the potential to double revenue yet again, which is what the stockholders keep expecting.

    Now let us look forward. The PC isn’t going to die (despite every other tech prognosticator dreaming corporate America is going to put iPads on every desk or something equally stupid) but the great masses who used to use Windows because there wasn’t another choice are abandoning it in droves. So forget growth in their bread & butter OS & Office divisions, the name of the game is now minimizing loss and mere survival; managing the decline in brutal blunt terms. It is almost impossible to imagine a new venture Microsoft could get into that could replace the lost revenue from their core business. Their situation isn’t as dire as Research In Motion, they aren’t going to simply vanish; but they will have to settle for being a smaller company.

    1. Well thought out but I do have some observations. Microsoft has been attempting to expand and grow. Sure, buying into the gaming market was MUCH more expensive than most realize but they now have a large part of the market and can keep it if they just don’t tick off their customers. Obviously the Xbox 1(180) was the wrong way to keep their customers happy and they have had to backpedal quickly. If they didn’t they might never fully recoup the money they spent getting into the market. Automotive telematics is another area of massive growth but Sync has had many troubles and has been blamed as the sole reason for Ford’s dropping satisfaction ratings. I think home automation is going to finally get big and Microsoft will have another chance to expand into a “new” market. They just need to do a much better job in each area.

  5. Whoever will be the new CEO of Microsoft has time until January of 2020, when extended support for Windows 7 Ends, to fix things.

    Gaming will be a non-issue on Linux by then, in no small part thanks to Steam for Linux. If Adobe came out with a Version of Creative Suite for Linux until then, or a similar high profile Productivity App and Windows 9/10 hasn’t adressed the the Problems Win8/8.1 has in the usability department, Windows on the Desktop will go the way of RIM/Blackberry in the Smartphone World.

    1. I wouldn’t assume too much about gaming for Linux, it took years for support on OSX to get adequate for example and they’re still behind Windows despite having a larger market share than desktop Linux and there’s still a lot of hurdles for them to overcome.

      Besides, it’s still taking them a ton of time, L4D2 took about a year, to port each game on Linux and the game selection is still very limited.

      So it’s still very much an experiment at this point and a long way from being a true alternative platform yet… It doesn’t help that not everyone in the Linux community is happy about adopting DRM, and non-open source software for Linux…

      The incremental update system MS is adopting for Windows also means it’s unlikely to go more than one version by 2020… Just look at OSX, it has been on 10 for over a decade, though Windows is starting on a faster schedule with a annual update schedule but OSX started with a every 2 year schedule and only fairly recently accelerated to annually…

      Consequently, this means it’s also more likely they can fix any issues with Windows 8 before 9 as incremental updates allow for major changes that simple Service Pack Updates couldn’t provide!

      Of course, we shouldn’t just assume Balmer’s replacement will be better… So, we’ll have to wait and see how things progress…

  6. head of windows left after win8, head of xbox division left a month after E3, now Balmer is leaving after the surface debacle.

    Microsoft had a long road ahead and forcing their will on customers will not work.

  7. YAY! This is great news. See that stock shoot up 7% in reaction? At least this guy isn’t Leo Apotheker bad (HP) but he is/was the main problem for Microsoft in the last decade. See if you can get him to step down earlier than 12 months from now and I’ll really be impressed.

  8. Your article is very charitible to Ballmer. Many feel he has been doing a wonderful job running Microsoft into the ground. The last ten years or so have not been good for Microsoft and Ballmer as CEO must assume the blame. I truly hope the next CEO has better vision and is better able to execute that vision than the current CEO. There will be time for the new CEO to fix the issues with Microsoft before the next version of Windows is released (9). Fixing Microsofts reputation may take a while longer.

    1. Ballmer may be the poster child for Microsoft losing its way, but he is far from the only influence that brought them to this low. While it may be popular to hang it on him, pretending he is all powerful, there are many others who need to go as well before a turnaround is possible. Don’t expect rearranging the deck chairs to save the Titanic.

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