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Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer to retire in next 12 months

Developers! Developers! Developers! Live it up, folks. Get as much Ballmer as you can because the Microsoft CEO is stepping down and retiring in the next 12 months. The company fired out a press release today detailing the news that while Steve Ballmer will continue on as CEO and lead Microsoft through the next steps of the transition to a devices and services company, a successor will be selected as a replacement.

The board of directors has appointed a committee to direct the process and is working closely with executive recruiting firm Heidrick & Struggles International. Both external and internal candidates will be considered. As well as firing out an internal email (opens in new tab) to colleagues, here's what Ballmer had to say on the news:

"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."

Bill Gates, who was CEO at Microsoft before Ballmer took charge, stated that he'll "work closely with the other members of the board to identify a great new CEO." Closing with how the company is fortunate to have Ballmer in his role until a new CEO is appointed. The current chief has previously come under fire at Microsoft regarding the company's performance in the smartphone market, as well as other internal issues highlighted by retired employees.

In other related news, Microsoft's stock has surged 8 percent in pre-market trading with today's news. What are your thoughts on Ballmer's departure? Do you believe Microsoft is in a secure enough position to crack on with the major transition and have new life injected?

Source: Microsoft (opens in new tab)

Rich Edmonds
Senior Editor, PC Build

Rich Edmonds is Senior Editor of PC hardware at Windows Central, covering everything related to PC components and NAS. He's been involved in technology for more than a decade and knows a thing or two about the magic inside a PC chassis. You can follow him over on Twitter at @RichEdmonds.

  • I was just about to tip this.
  • Okay?
  • Okay. I think they are in a good enough place to transition well.
  • I think they will be in a better position a few months after he is gone. Never really cared for Ballmer. But to be fair, I'm not digging Tim Cook either. I don't really like the direction either of these two have taken.
  • and what exactly do you have a problem with? My guess - you are a bandwaggon hater with no clue about what he does, how business works and probably work in the fastfood industry or equivalent.
  • That harsh response to someone who's just saying he doesn't care for Ballmer or Cook.
    1- Windows Phone not developing fast enough making users beg for basic features, with Ballmer first making fun of the iPhone, the revolution that brought the destruction of Windows Mobile and delivering their OS to the market 3 YEARS after Apple and Google, missing a whole lot of opportunities and Nokia complaining that MS is not taking the smartphone industry seriously.
    2- Windows 8, a half baked OS with dual personality and incomplete apps and with a lot of controversy - justified or otherwise - that DEFINITELY COULD be avoided.
    3- Xbox One coming with a host of new restrictive policies for users making everyone feel like MS doesn't care much about those who are paying to buy their product, and one manager saying "those who can't deal with it can buy the older console", with the leadership then having to withdraw and cause losing market to Sony and PS4 in preorders also due to less capable but more expensive hardware.
    4- Surface RT causing almost 1 BILLION dollars loss despite being a good product, priced too high plus bad marketing and bad brand naming ("RT"), and Surface Pro having less than stellar performance in sales.
    5- Office with its controversial licensing policies.
    I looked everywhere and couldn't find any reason but senior leadership and discipline failure for all these problems Microsoft is facing. There is not even one Microsoft product launch going smoothly and that is clearly due to bad leadership.
  • You're not really following the news are you? XBox One dropping their DRM long time back, keep yourself updated before pointing something out. Nevertheless, pretty much agree with everything else you're pointing out.
    I like Microsoft products, not really a fan for everything but I just like it because I've been using it for years. And it becoming more interesting with this new direction but still 180 degree of turn around in this scale will take time. I keep on hoping that WP can take it self into an even position to Android and iPhone market. And with Ballmer resigning, I hope the new CEO can really push Microsoft forward.
  • You should read what he said.  He mentioned "...with the leadership then having to withdraw...".  Oh, and it wasn't a "long time back".
  • Great attitude! For starters how about doing absolutely nothing to move the company forward technologically or strategically. While Apple and Google were putting money in R&D they instead kept trying to Milk their 2 main money generators, Windows and Office. Keep going? Alright, Surface\Pro was a disaster and Ballmer is pleading for more time. He had 13+ years. Since Ballmer took over give me a category that MS has lead in that it hadn't already held a lead? The company grew revenue true, but also missed on an already lowered projection. Since you seem to know what he does and the bang up job he's done, I'll wait for your rebuttal. Good day.
  • This is TOTALLY baseless. Microsoft's main expenditure is in R&D and they were miles ahead of mentioned companies in R&D. They still are. Heard of Microsoft Research?
  • Others turn their research into something usable and/or successful, or actual advancement that is going to define what we can expect from future. Google Glass for example. Or ChromeCast. Or self driving cars. I am yet to hear about something Microsoft Research did that could pioneer in something.
  • I laughed at the "Apple" putting their money in R&D.
  • Then again, Apple designs their own CPU.
  • Its magical...
  • Honestly, the only sin from Ballmers while directing Microsft is: Bad Marketing.
  • You should go and see Apples R&D budget, man.
    "Dying" nokia invested 1.5$billion in Q2 2013 and rich Apple  1.2$billions.
  • Careful what you say; bill gates uses a surface pro!
  • +1020
  • your response obviously exposes your clueless nature and I don't want to speculate on what industry you work in. As a former Microsoft employee myself, I can say when Bill Gates stepped aside and Ballmer was announced as a CEO, lot of people within the company said 'oh god, NOOOOO' especially people involved in hardcore technology side. Ballmer is a two bit sales guy with total ignorance on technology and vision.
    can you recall how he shot himself in the foot with 'iPhone will be failure, its too expensive and useless' rant... even before launch. how screwed up the Win 8 launch was and the adoption of Surface and WP 8 is still today. I said Surface should be launced at $400 and Pro around $800. Because of his greedy decision by Ballmer or whoever else down the chain, now they hade to take nearly ~$1 billion hit in write-off. I can go on and on about how he let small players like Google, Apple or Facebook set the pace of the industry now while Microsoft became increasingly irrelevent in his reign.
    Keeping him there only would have driven the company to the ground. It's a smart move by Microsoft board for that I say YIPPEEEE. stock market is already doing that as MSFT is climbing up to 10% on this news.
  • So, you're saying that people who work in the industry's like fast food are clueless to what's going on with business❔... What about the CEO of McDonald's❔He works in the fast food industry... You're a idiot❗
  • Both still better than Leo Apotheker
  • I can't believe there's ppl here who like that guy , he is a joke thats the best news i gotten today , we need someone smarter than this guy .
  • How many billion dollars businesses do they need before you think he is successful? I don't get the hate...
  • Trust me the reason why micro$oft is successful is not i repeat is not because
    of this guy .
  • He is well popular at MSFT. Maybe not a public figure but he knows the business. This isn't a beauty contest or geek squad. This is business.
  • No, it's tech, and that's why MS are playing catchup (badly) with Google and Apple. A lot of people at MS think he's terrible; it's been a fairly embarrassing admission to say you work for MS for the last 10 years or so and Ballmer has a lot to do with that.
    Posting from Windows 7, got a WP8 device, etc.
  • If you're embarrassed to work for Microsoft, then get the hell out. The only reason people would be embarrassed is because they actually believe what the tech journalist write about the company, even though they have first hand experience...
  • For you and I may be it is tech. For a multi billion giant with so many subsidiary product lines, its still a business. I pity those people who are ashamed of working for a company that has powered 90% of the world computers for nearly 4 decades.
  • "Trust" the other guy because he knows everything
  • Totally agree!
  • When you are #18 or higher on the Forbes 400, then I'll take you seriously.  Ballmer is #19.
  • Seriously? Tell me that's sarcasm?
  • Okay, it's sarcasm.  ;-)
  • I for one love Ballmer. He was really someone that did things his own way, and I respected him for that. The poor guy is old now though, sad to see him go.
  • MS needs a techie CEO who understands how to compete and stay ahead of its competitors.  Such is the case with Windows Phone.  For instance, MS should have basically licensed WP for under $2.00 for the first 3-5 years in order to compete better with Android; since they are making billions off Android anyway.  The second blunder was the Surface RT (totally marketed wrong) which came to market overpriced.  MS never understood they were late to the game and should have focused on Android and Amazon’s Kindle tablets to get a good base and attract developers.  That said the Surface RT should have come to market at $299 with the keyboard and a free game like Halo. 
    Nevertheless, Ballmer is a finance guy who never got it. Do not be fooled, Gates forced Ballmer out. Let’s hope MS puts an aggressive, savvy, ruthless (meaning competitive) CEO in the top spot soon.
  • WP is a toy for Microsoft. I don't see why everyone expects Microsoft to devote so much resources to it? Microsoft can afford to kill WP tomorrow and pretend like it never happened and yet be making profits tomorrow. Its that insignificant of a product.
  • That sounds great, if that's their view then Microsoft still doesn't understand what they're facing, they haven't learned why they're in trouble and how late it is. WP and RT should become one OS next year with a shared/combined AppStore, that's their future and they need to focus on building a core fanbase of dedicated users ASAP with smaller mobile devices.
  • Exactly, best news ever. He wasn't a great leader and sure as hell didn't deserve to work that long in one company, I don't understand why it took them so long.
  • Steve still has a considerable amount of MS stock and has an estimated net-worth of 10-18 billion.  The issue is Bill Gates, because he put his friend in charge.
  • It would be hard to find someone "smarter" than Ballmer to head the company. The guy is a mathematical wizard.
  • I really liked the retirement letter very classy,very sincere. Me personally I've never really liked the guy, I always thought he was a weasel, but he was loyal to his company and did a good job at Microsoft. I do think however it's time for new leadership, 12 months is a good amount of time to find the right leadership hopefully they do a good job selecting a CEO
  • It would be awesome if joe belfiore becomes ceo.. That would be priceless..
  • Oh wow!
  • That's life. Hopefully the next person will be as enthusiastic as Ballmer. :)
  • +1
  • +928
  • +1
  • So many people have been waiting for this. I'm very happy about the new Microsoft and hope things continue to improve for us with the new CEO.
  • Stephon Elop would be nice!
  • Here's a crazy idea...
    Merge with Facebook and bring in Mark Zuckerberg. 
  • Please tell me you're joking!
  • He did say "crazy"
  • Zuckerberg wouldn't know what to do with a corporation like MS... Wow❕
  • Heard Ballmer was changing his career to modeling
  • Damn, I'll be picking up some magazines fo' sho'!
  • +928
  • But I'm warning you first hand: don't, by any means, open the center fold-out poster...
  • OMG! You made me laugh there! Hahahah..
  • He would use the Lumia 1020's Camera #promote
  • @Choco22: "He would use the Lumia 1020's Camera #promote"
    And tweet duck-face selfies with the #switch hashtag. Lol.
  • Lol!
  • And there was much rejoicing!
  • yay
  • Ding dong the witch is dead.....
  • With all due respect and taking nothing away from Ballmer's enthusiasm for Microsoft, I'm really glad he is leaving.
  • ditto.  Really hoping the next CEO fixes Xbox music!!!! Or Ballmer fixes it for us before he leaves!
  • CANNOT believe you think its CEO's job to fix your Xbox Music.
  • really?
    It isn't his job to fix it himself, but if it's sucks as bad as what it does, he should realize that and add more developers or get somebody else in charge of that dept to get it fixed before they get behind and make a bad name for Xbox Music... If that hasn't happened already...  
  • Xbox Music on WP is peanuts for Microsoft. He should not and must not make a decision of adding excess developers to a project that is only small accessory to profits. Its main bread and butter is Windows on PC. The updates on that are weekly.
  • I agree, but it could be a deal breaker to some... I've thought about switchting because it is absolutly terrible...  It should not have taken so long to fix such a large problem as duplicating music was.
  • Yes, because that is what a CEO of a multi billion dollar company does is fix bugs in Xbox music.
  • read the comments below that one... not at all what I was implying..
  • Wow,, you don't know how big this corporation is, do you❔
  • don't see why that matters... all he has to do is say I want this fixed.  Nothing more than that.  Somebody else will do the rest when they see he isn't happy with the product they are putting out.
  • Ditto. Let's get some fresh blood in there.
  • Thank you Steve. Well my concern now is, who's gonna be next. Skype ex-CEO? Steven Sinofsky?
  • Steven's gone, I believe...
  • Paul Thurrott!!!!
  • My vote would have been for Sinofsky if he hadn't already left the company.  Supposedly he also had bad relations with the other execs.  I just hope they don't pick the lady who replaced Sinofsky.  She comes off as an air head.
  • I wouldn't be opposed to bringing Sinofsky back. His main problem was that he was a control freak. His divisions didn't play well with others because he wanted to dictate to other divisions how they would bend to work with his. If he was un charge of the whole thing, that issue isn't there.
  • Daniel Rubino comes to mind
  • God no.. Can you imagine all of the un proofread press releases the public would get❔... And, all of the misspelled words wouldn't look good coming from a software company whose biggest innovation is spell check... Lol❕
  • I think I'm getting old..
    I'll see 3° CEO...
  • 3 of 3 u mean?
  • I think it's a good thing, Microsoft's overall strategy has been excellent (in my opinion) but they have been screwing up a lot of the details. Hopefully a new CEO would be better that end of things.
  • +920
  • MS is too big for any CEO
  • +1
  • You have to realize though that CEOs aren't supposed to look at the details. He's done exactly what he's supposed to do. It the people under him that are supposed to look at the details.
  • Exactly!
  • +100
  • That's correct. And I don't get the hate the media has been spewing on Ballmer.
  • Its what I call the "executive effect". Whether it be a CEO or our very own president, people blame them for everything their business does In the case of the president, everyone expects them to change America, write laws, and fix things instantly when they take office, failing to realize that there's laws (and congress) keeping them from doing that on their own. In the case of Ballmer, a CEO, people expect him to boss every department around and speed up/slow down the company's work to the publics whim, whether feasible or not, failing to realize if he was Mr. Micromanager and extremely bossy, he probably wouldn't if stayed CEO very long. in summary, the media, and to an extent, people, hate Ballmer because of what Microsoft's different departments have done or, in their minds, failed to do. They have some nonsense outlook on how businesses are ran and how much work it actually takes to make our products, so when one thing is against their personal opinion, they suddenly get all upset and blame Ballmer, since he is "CEO".
  • Very well put Dustin
  • He spent $8billion on Skype. He's supposed to not do that.
  • I don't see buying Skype as a wrong choice. Its an asset that generates so much revenue just from all those ads!
  • I am more concerned with the $6.3 Billion purchase of aQuantive (and then subsequent writeoff) or Yammer for $1.2 Billion.
  • That will easily generate more ad money and re pay the investment in no time
  • Not so. A CEO is ultimately responsible for all that goes on with his company. He is responsible for the success or failure of the company...profit loss...marketshare, etc. Tally up the successes (profit, marketshare gain) vs failures during his tenure and see if you come to the same conclusion.  
  • Who will be the next CEO? Who dares to take on this role?
  • Stephen Elop?
  • Nah. He's busy revitalizing Nokia and indeed he's doing a great job. Thorsten Heins? Just kidding. Knock on wood! Hahaha.. Microsoft is one of my most favorite company!
  • What about Ben Affleck? He can do anything nowadays...
  • Ugh, don't remind me that he's going to be batman. :-(
  • Wut..... ? ಠ_ಠ
  • Yup, because he hasn't ruined enough superheroes yet.  Heck, I'm still miffed that they've barely covered Superman's story before doing a crossover with Batman.  Ben Affleck just makes it worse.
  • I think Microsoft should consider him for the post coz he is one of best CEO i have ever know...he can do great justice to windows phone.
  • Joe wpfiore
  • +820 for Joe B
  • Ashton Kucher is the perfect choice.
  • I'll do it!! (get ready for some major windows phone improvements like facebook notifications that actually work)
  • Ben Rudolph for CEO. He's bald, enthusiastic & hard as nails
  • Comment of the day! lmao
  • I'd second Ben Rudolph as the next CEO
  • Lol just an off the cuff observation. Maybe Major Nelson (Larry) will step up. Otherwise bring someone fresh in.
  • Whoa damn...! This is really big news...Never thought he would be leaving in the middle of all this...Ballmer was good...But i figure we do need a more competent CEO to cope with this transition and at the same time come out at the top...Someone like Elop...Nokia's clock speed is at a new level and their performance more streamlined...thats what i wanna see in MS. Huge potential waiting to be tapped into...
  • Vote for Elop :)
  • Elop Elop Elop!
  • Changes are coming to windows phone
  • Maybe...hopefully for the better. Hope the new CEO doesn't ditch WP.
  • I think Bill Gates should be the next CEO.. lol.. But seriously, he should always look after his baby..
  • Ditto
  • This ia good news. Microsoft as a whole needs new energy, it's a very slow evolving company.
  • Many people are rejoicing over this news, time will tell if this was in fact something to rejoice about, but hoping the next person is a move in the right direction. Microsoft has all the pieces, talent, and ability to win the future with mobile and maintain the enterprise hold, it just needs a new, better leader. Now is the perfect time for this as the company is in transition.
  • Stephon Elop 2014!
  • Steve Sinofsky?
  • Right. Based on the great success of Windows 8 has been!
  • Good.
  • I hope the new CEO will continue with the one Microsoft strategy and connect all MS products and integrate them into each other, so the services Office, bing, Internet Explorer, SkyDrive,, Xbox Music & Video are integrated into the platforms Windows 8, Windows Phone and Xbox.
  • Sing with me...
  • Yes, since all those developers showed us how to run businesses in the late 1990s.  The NASDAQ still hasn't recovered from that.
  • I think, if they pick up a young energic CEO, it will only benefit Microsoft. If they keep chosing old men, then it's normal Microsoft keeps in the old ways. Anyway, regardless of who comes next, I hope the first thing that man does is give some deserved lashes on the Windows Phone team to make them work faster. If the new CEO doesn't understand that they can't keep lagging behind if they want a competitive mobile OS, then little will change. I honestly wouldn't mind seeing Belfiore gone with Balmer... I personally will not miss Balmer. Honestly, I think Microsoft misses Gates much more than it will miss Balmer. Let's see who's next...maybe...a former big shot of Nokia? (Hey...they placed a former Microsoft director as CEO of Nokia so...)
  • More energetic than Ballmer? Not possible.
  • I meant energic in making things work...not at jumping and shouting in public lol
  • HEY PICK ME PICK ME!!!! I'm energetic and young, (16) and I know how to code, so yeah. And I can shout DEVELOPERS DEVELOPERS DEVELOPERS as many times as necessary lol.
  • LOL Sorry, you'll need to be allowed to drive before that.
  • Awww... you crushed my dreams lol... jk but I think Belfiore would be a good candidate for CEO: young, techy, and energetic.
  • How about Belafiore for a change. Young,dashing & a good communicator to boot.
  • Oh my god I would love Joe to be one!! :D
  • You meant Joe Belfiore? :D
  • Oops. Yes
  • Too young and inexperienced and he's a techy more than a manager. I'd much rather have him stay with WP and building that into the best mobile OS than getting bogged down with the politics of running a company.
  • Idk... Maybe we need a tech guy to make it happen.
  • Agreed.  I'd much rather see Elop take the CEO job.  I can imagine that Elop and Belfiore probably have a similar vision and passion for winphone, and would probably work very well together.  Plus, Elop, being Canadian, probably wouldn't mind a move back to North America, especially Seattle, close to home.
  • Joe Belfiore for CEO. You heard it here first...or maybe not, some wise shot got in 2 seconds before me.
  • Thanks for calling me wise shot
  • Haha, only playing with ya...
  • I kinda hoping for Stephen Elop lol
  • Elop! Elop! Elop!
  • I think we need Elop right where he is.
  • Totally agree, Elop is doing great with his turnaround strategy at Nokia.
  • I thought about it... Didn't he run his oS to the ground.
  • Zune, Kin, Vista, Win 8, WP8, Bing. Such a long lineup of market changing devices. I'm shocked why he's leaving.
  • Well he is old. .......
  • Your sarcasm is duly noted. /s
  • None of those except Kin have made loss for the company. Add to that list Office 2013, Skydrive, Skype, SharePoint, Enterprise Servers and Azure and do your walk of shame now.
  • I don't think I have ever seen you post something positive on this site man.
  • W