Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer announced on Friday that he will retire within 12 months. It's big news: Ballmer has been the face of Microsoft for as long as many of us can remember. He joined the company in 1980 and ultimately became the CEO 13 years ago in 2000.
We all like to joke about Ballmer. He's sweaty, he yells funny things on stage and used to make super whacky commercials. He's kind of like the big loveable teddy bear of tech CEOs. But now he's about to retire and put his focus on his friends and family. And that's OK. Microsoft will be just fine.
In fact, Wall Street seems to agree with that statement already. The company's stock is trading up 7.67 percent as I write this article. Maybe it's because Ballmer is leaving, but he said something in a letter to employees that holds a lot of value — he's not selling off all of his stock in the company. "I am excited by our mission of empowering the world and believe in our future success," Ballmer wrote. "I cherish my Microsoft ownership, and look forward to continuing as on of Microsoft's largest owners." That statement shows that Ballmer isn't taking his money and running — not yet anyway — that he really believes in the legacy he created at Microsoft and in the portfolio of products coming down the pipeline.
Skeptics have questioned why Ballmer has remained CEO of Microsoft as Apple ran away with the tablet market — one Microsoft tried to enter time and time again. And, with the poor reception to Windows Vista, Windows 8 and the company's huge loss on Surface products, it certainly makes one wonder who's running the show at Microsoft.
We can't forget that Microsoft has its roots deeply embedded across the industry, though. While we see Windows Phone trail behind Android, for example, we have to remember that Microsoft makes more off of licensing patents to Android phone makers than it does Windows Phone. For Microsoft, it's not always about the products and services we see on the surface (pun?)– it's about the technology and IP behind them. And that's not going anywhere.
I'm curious to see who Microsoft taps as its new CEO. Bill Gates is on the board that will help make that decision. It's too early to dig too deep into the future of Microsoft without knowing who's going to be holding the candle, but I don't see it spiraling out of control because Ballmer's leaving. If anything, I think this is the beginning of a new era for Microsoft.