Ballmer to step down

by Shane Dillon

EYEBROWS were cocked a-la Roger Moore all around the business world at the bolt-from-the-blue retirement announcement by Microsoft’s head honcho, Steve Ballmer.

They weren’t the only things raised suddenly – Microsoft shares instantly leapt tall buildings in a single bound, jumping 9% in a clear sign that The Markets approved of the surprise news.

The 57-year-old has been running Microsoft since Bill Gates stepped aside in 2000, and Ballmer has been a, err … singular force (see below) that did much to raise the company’s revenues even higher – as if such an outcome was needed.

However, despite overseeing some innovative new revenue streams – such as its hugely successful Xbox/gaming division, as well as pushing Bing into the ring with Google – Ballmer was seen by many analysts as having dropped the ball a bit in recent years.

For instance, Apple’s avaricious success was partly due to Microsoft’s sluggish reaction to the rise of tablet computing, while recent fumbles – such as the lukewarm interest in its Surface tablet, and the shambolic launch of the upcoming XBox One console (which Microsoft PR gurus are busy firefighting, even now) – drew widespread criticism.

With an estimated fortune of around $15bn (or rather a lot of euro, for any beancounters wondering what that comes to), Ballmer can probably afford to retire permanently at the end of the transition period he has set in motion – that’s 12 months for an elite Microsoft team of supermanagers, led by Commodore Bill “Jumpers” Gates, himself, to find Ballmer’s successor.

However, I think it’s very unlikely we’ve heard the last of Ballmer (discounting his final year at the helm that yet lies ahead).

After all, the kid from (near) America’s auto capital, Detroit, whose father worked for Ford, has always been an extremely driven character (geddit?), and it’s likely he’ll want to take the wheel at another challenging company, and motor along again as one of the unforgettable characters in an otherwise generally dull corporate landscape.

Here’s hoping so, anyway …

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