Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has officially announced plans to retire within the next 12 months. The news comes as a shock to many of us, as Microsoft is just getting over the honey moon stage of Windows 8, about to release Windows 8.1, and settling in as a “devices and services” company.
In an internal email from Ballmer published on Microsoft’s press page, Ballmer writes that the timing of leaving the company is never good, but that now’s the right time to do it.
“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,” Ballmer said in the email.
Ballmer stressed that this is a “time of important transformation.” We’re not sure if he’s talking about just his leaving the company and bringing in new blood, or if he’s referring to the ever-changing Windows 8 operating system, and new “devices and services” plan. In Microsoft’s official press release, the term “devices and services” is used three times in a few short paragraphs.
We’ve sensed a change in Ballmer the last few times we’ve seen him this year. At Microsoft’s latest Build developers’ conference, and at the Windows 8 event last October, he was missing his characteristic high Ballmer energy. It’s possible that disappointing sales of Windows 8, Windows RT, and the Surface tablet could be responsible for his departure.
A special committee, made up of company founder Bill Gates and chaired by John Thompson, will select Ballmer’s successor. Gates commented, saying that Microsoft is “fortunate to have Steve in his role until the new CEO assumes these duties.”
Steve Ballmer has been at Microsoft since it was a fledgling computer company. In his departure email, he noted that Microsoft has grown from a $7.5 million company into a $78 billion leader, and its employees have grown from about 30 people to almost 100,000.
So, who will the new Microsoft CEO be? Will it be someone internal, like Julie Larson-Green, or someone from outside of the company. Stay tuned as the story develops.