Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer retiring within next 12 months

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Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) CEO Steve Ballmer announced he will retire within the next 12 months, once a successor is chosen.

Ballmer

"There is never a perfect time for this type of transition, but now is the right time," Ballmer said in an internal email published to the Microsoft Website. "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. We need a CEO who will be here longer term for this new direction."

The 57-year-old Ballmer joined Microsoft in 1980, becoming the software giant's 30th overall employee and the first business manager hired by co-founder Bill Gates. Ballmer served as President of Microsoft from 1998 to 2001; he was officially named CEO in early 2000, and assumed full control of the company when Gates stepped down as chief software architect in 2006.

"I am proud of what we have achieved," Ballmer said. "We have grown from $7.5 million to nearly $78 billion since I joined Microsoft, and we have grown from employing just over 30 people to almost 100,000. I feel good about playing a role in that success and having committed 100 percent emotionally all the way. We have more than 1 billion users and earn a great profit for our shareholders. We have delivered more profit and cash return to shareholders than virtually any other company in history."

Microsoft's Board of Directors has appointed a special committee to lead the search for Ballmer's replacement. The committee is chaired by John Thompson, the board's lead independent director, and includes Gates, Chairman of the Audit Committee Chuck Noski and Chairman of the Compensation Committee Steve Luczo. Executive recruiting firm Heidrick & Struggles International will assist the committee, which will consider both external and internal candidates.

Ballmer's tenure at the Microsoft helm coincides with the computing industry's shift from the desktop to mobile devices, and his legacy in the mobile segment is decidedly mixed. On the one hand, Microsoft's Windows Phone 8 mobile operating system has earned acclaim from both analysts and consumers, and during the second quarter of 2013, sales of Windows Phone smartphones outpaced BlackBerry (NASDAQ:BBRY) device sales for the first time ever, research firm Gartner reported earlier this month. Consumers across the globe purchased 7.4 million Windows Phone devices in the second quarter, up from 4 million in the year-ago period and corresponding to 3.3 percent smartphone market share, Gartner said.

But Windows Phone still lags far behind Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android, which continues to dominate the smartphone landscape with second-quarter 2013 sales of 178 million units, translating to 79 percent worldwide market share. Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) also sold 32 million iPhones between April 1 and June 30, capturing 14.2 percent of the global market.

Moreover, Microsoft has been slow to innovate in mobile. Its signature Office productivity suite only arrived on iOS devices this June, expanding to Android a month later. The sluggish pace of Windows Phone platform upgrades has also frustrated consumers and manufacturing partners.

"We are trying to evolve the cultural thinking [at Microsoft] to say 'Time is of the essence,'" Nokia (NYSE:NOK) Vice President of App Development Bryan Biniak told the International Business Times last month. "Waiting until the end of your fiscal year when you need to close your targets doesn't do us any good when I have phones to sell today."

For more:
- read Ballmer's email

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