Steve Ballmer to end run as Microsoft CEO in a year

Microsoft Corp Chief Executive Steve Ballmer will step down in the next 12 months bringing his 13-year run as CEO of the company to an end.

Ballmer succeeded Bill Gates, 13 years ago. His knack for technology innovation was is considered on par with the late Apple CEO Steve Jobs.

Ballmer said in a memo, ''This is an emotional and difficult thing for me to do. I take this step in the best interests of the company I love; it is the thing outside of my family and closest friends that matters to me most.''

Microsoft remains a behemoth financially. It generated nearly $78 billion in revenue in the year ended June 30 - an average pace of $150,000 worth of sales every minute. The company's huge profits, amounting to $21.86 billion last year, remain the envy of many companies.

Under Ballmer, Microsoft succeeded in limiting many threats, including the open software standard Linux. He also helped Microsoft recover from the shock of the US government's effort to break up the company.

''There is never a perfect time for this type of transition, but now is the right time,'' Ballmer said in a statement.

''I am proud of what we have achieved. 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 per cent 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'', the departing CEO's statement said.

He added, ''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 company has not released any information on Ballmer's possible successor. However, it has formed a special committee to organise the search for a new chief executive. 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 in the press release, ''We're fortunate to have Steve in his role until the new CEO assumes these duties.''

Ballmer became CEO in 2000. Over the course of the next decade, Ballmer and Microsoft had their successes. The company's annual revenue has grown from $23 billion in 2000 to $77.8 billion for the 2013 fiscal year that ended in June.

Upon the completion of a process to choose his successor 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.

According to industry reports, founder Bill Gates, who is currently board chairman, may return as operational CEO.

In an online mail to company employees, Ballmer said that he believes Microsoft is well-positioned to weather ongoing shifts in the tech world.

''Microsoft has all its best days ahead,'' he wrote. ''Know you are part of the best team in the industry and have the right technology assets. We cannot and will not miss a beat in these transitions.''|

Ballmer's exit from Microsoft marks the end of an era for the company. Ballmer has overseen the company during a difficult time in its history and recently announced a major reorganisation to help the company emerge from economic downturns. He was the man who prompted the software giant to focus more on hardware and services, an about-turn from its long-standing software business.

Since 2000, Microsoft has struggled to compete in markets in which other companies are already established.

Microsoft's efforts to break into smart phones and tablets have so far failed to pick up traction against competitors such as Apple, Samsung, or other manufacturers who make products using Google's Android operating system.

Meanwhile, Microsoft's fortunes have been hit by waning demand for desktop PCs, which analysts say users aren't upgrading as often. Last year, Microsoft introduced a new, touchscreen-based operating system, Windows 8, that aimed to tie its mobile and desktop devices more closely together, but it has had trouble getting consumers on board.

A new generation of Microsoft leadership is emerging, but the generation that built Microsoft will soon no longer be around to steer the company.