“Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer To Retire Within 12 Months” – That was on the website over at Hacker News, and came from the Microsoft Website. My reaction: Steve Ballmer was always more of a manager than an innovator. Under his leadership Microsoft had more hits than misses, and the company’s software reach into World industrial culture was so great it was hard to mess up. But Microsoft arguably lost a lot of ground to Apple and other companies over his tenure; it’s time to go. In fact, what follows sounds more like he was really fired.
Here’s the rest, followed by choice reactions from Hacker News:
REDMOND, Wash. — Aug. 23, 2013 — Microsoft Corp. today announced that Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer has decided to retire as CEO within the next 12 months, 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.
“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.”
The Board of Directors has appointed a special committee to direct the process. This committee is chaired by John Thompson, the board’s lead independent director, and includes Chairman of the Board Bill Gates, Chairman of the Audit Committee Chuck Noski and Chairman of the Compensation Committee Steve Luczo. The special committee is working with Heidrick & Struggles International Inc., a leading executive recruiting firm, and will consider both external and internal candidates.
“The board is committed to the effective transformation of Microsoft to a successful devices and services company,” Thompson said. “As this work continues, we are focused on selecting a new CEO to work with the company’s senior leadership team to chart the company’s course and execute on it in a highly competitive industry.”
“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,” said Gates. “We’re fortunate to have Steve in his role until the new CEO assumes these duties.”
Reactions from Hacker News:
He’ll be remembered as a terrible CEO. Ballmer took over as CEO in 2000. In the 13 years since then, Apple has experienced an unprecedented resurgence. Google and Facebook have gone from being obscure startups to giants. The tech industry went through the bubble, recovered, and today is stronger than ever.
What happened to Microsoft? While the rest of the tech sector exploded and prospered, it stayed still. A MSFT share was worth about $35 dollars when Ballmer took over; it’s worth about $35 now. The world moved on, and Microsoft didn’t move with it.
Nope, he screwed up even bigger than that. As recently 2005, IE’s browser share was well into the 90’s. Now, it’s hovering roughly 40% depending on whose stats you trust. This on the desktop, to say nothing of mobile which would make the comparison between years even worse. This is after Microsoft recognized that the web was their big challenge, after the so called Tidal Wave memo.
If an MSFT share was worth 35 when he took over (at the top of the bubble) and it’s the same now then it does not mean (at all) that he was a crap CEO. MSFT still remains one of the most important tech companies ever, that’s not a small feat. I don’t think that he’s an extremely brilliant CEO, but tech companies come and go, and MSFT is still close to the top. Even if everyone in the media is 100% focused on mobile now.
Microsoft had already lost all of its momentum by 2000. The antitrust case was a major distraction and by the time it was over Microsoft had a badly damaged brand image that has never recovered. Gates overreached during his later years and made the company too insular, leading to them missing out on all of the advances to come.