Microsoft's mobile missteps contributed to Ballmer's resignation, say analysts

Ballmer became 'lightning rod' for Microsoft's problems

Steve Ballmer's decision to step down as CEO of Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) was likely motivated by a series of Microsoft missteps, including missteps in the mobile arena, judged a number of analysts.

"Steve had become a lightning rod for all of Microsoft's problems--particularly with investors. Recent poor performance, weak interest in Windows 8 and the massive write-down related to Surface intensified this and activist stakeholders," David Cearley, vice president at Gartner, told eWeek in an interview.

"The shift to a 'devices and services' strategy and the recent reorganization create a level of uncertainty about Microsoft's future. This only adds to that uncertainty," said Cearley.

Apparently, Ballmer does not feel comfortable leading Microsoft in the new direction outlined last month as part of its major reorganization. Microsoft will focus on mobile and cloud computing, where the PC software behemoth maker has lagged behind rivals.

"Going forward, our strategy will focus on creating a family of devices and services for individuals and businesses that empower people around the globe at home, at work and on the go, for the activities they value most ... [S]ucceeding with mobile devices, Windows, Office 365 and Azure will be foundational," Ballmer told employees in a memo outlining the new strategy.

Analyst Zeus Kerravala was quoted by Reuters as saying that Ballmer missed a number of key industry transitions, including the move to mobile and cloud. "Ballmer's strength is traditional PC computing. He was a great guy for his era but times have changed and a new leadership is needed," said Kerravala.

Andrew Bartels, an analyst with Forrester Research, agreed that Microsoft missed the mark on tablets. "Like Dell, HP and other PC makers ... Microsoft [has] been caught flatfooted by the shift to tablets," Bartels was quoted by Reuters as saying.

Ballmer plans to retire within the next 12 months. Microsoft has set up a committee to oversee the process of choosing a new CEO. The committee will be chaired by John Thompson, the board's lead independent director, and will include company founder and chairman of the board Bill Gates.

For more:
- see the announcement of Ballmer's retirement
- read the eWeek article
- see Ballmer's memo to employees

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