No More Funny Faces: Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer to Retire Within a Year, Seeks Successor

Paul Lilly

Failed Surface strategy is his swan song

After more than a decade at the helm of Microsoft , Steve Ballmer announced that he is stepping down from his role as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) within the next 12 months, and possibly sooner depending on how quickly he and a special committee appointed by the board can find a successor. Until then, he will continue to serve in his position as Microsoft transforms into a devices and services company, the Redmond outfit announced today.

"There is never a perfect time for this type of transition, but now is the right time," Ballmer said . "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."

On the contrary, some would argue that the "perfect time" Ballmer speaks of would have been prior to Windows 8, and certainly prior to Surface. Microsoft's vision was to present customers with a unified Windows experience across multiple devices, but in doing so, the company alienated a portion of its desktop userbase and failed to establish its Surface products as viable alternatives in the mobile space, a double whammy.

As the PC market trends towards mobile devices, a new leader might be the best thing for Microsoft, given Ballmer's recent track record. More than just a stain on Ballmer's resume, Surface has been a financial failure for Microsoft, which recently took a $900 million charge on unsold tablets.

It's a shame that he'll be remembered for Microsoft's recent performance. To be fair, Ballmer has done a lot of good at Microsoft as well. Under his leadership, Microsoft's revenue jumped from $25 billion to $70 billion, and its net income jumped 215 percent to $23 billion. He also oversaw the creation of a data centers division.

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