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Ballmer's Retirement Was Earlier Than Originally Planned

The tech industry was surprised Friday when Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer announced he was retiring within a year. The Microsoft leader just initiated a company reorganization,and seemed absolutely giddy about pulling Microsoft into the realm of devices and services. The early retirement just didn't make sense.

Or maybe it did. The news arrived after the company took a $900 million hit in the pocket over unsold Surface RT tablets. The company had also just pulled back on many of its policies regarding Xbox One such as the whole "always on" aspect, Kinect requirement and used games fiasco. For almost a year, once-hopeful OEMs have blamed Windows 8 for the declining PC market due to customer unwillingness to embrace a transformed Windows platform.

Sources close to the so-called early retirement call the move sudden, that the decision was neither planned nor as smooth as portrayed in Ballmer's message on Friday. A number of people within and outside Microsoft are reporting that he had not planned to leave Microsoft so soon, especially just after the recent restructuring that he himself had "intensely planned." Ballmer even slightly admitted this in his letter.

"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 focused on empowering consumers in the activities they value most," Ballmer said. He originally moved up the retirement date himself, but then the nine-member board -- including Master Chief Bill Gates -- advanced it even further for him after everyone agreed it would be in their best interests.  

Since the announcement on Friday, there has been speculation as to why Ballmer paid no compliments to his long-time friend Bill Gates, no "thanks for everything" statements that's usually associated with the departure of long-time execs. It's believed that Gates actually initiated the boot, that there is a rift going on between the two. Observers have noticed that even Gates has offered no thanks of his own, no sweet goodbye to a long-time Microsoft comrade. Of course, the retirement won't officially take place for around twelve months, so maybe the heart-felt goodbyes will take place then?

"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," Gates said. "We're fortunate to have Steve in his role until the new CEO assumes these duties."

A different set of sources claim that Gates' comment was to ease concerns that Ballmer was already out the door. They also said Gates didn't instigate the early retirement date, but he wasn't entirely supportive of Ballmer as he had been in the past. That's a big change given that Gates has always been Balmer's major backer despite pressures from other board members and external partners for Ballmer to step down.

Several propellants in the early departure include an even weaker upcoming quarter, and a slowing adoption of Windows 8 despite the upcoming 8.1 update. There were also increased board worries that mounting pressure from activist investor ValueAct would succeed in obtaining a seat on Microsoft's board if Ballmer stayed in place. Even if that attempt was blocked, the public proxy battle would make Ballmer look even less capable of running the Microsoft show.

"If ValueAct got on the board, I think Ballmer finally realized that meant it was going to be the hard way from then on out until he left and he did not want that for a company he clearly loves and has been his life," one source told AllThingsD.

Ballmer's demeanor reportedly shifted after Friday's announcement. Before, he was "jumping enthusiastically" into business review meetings over the past month. He was visually excited about the company changes that he had initiated. But now Ballmer seems "uncharacteristically chastened and quiet," a total 180 degree turn from his prior "fists of steel" manner.

"He was definitely not leaving and then he suddenly was," another source said. "Even if today's Steve made the choice, it was a choice yesterday's Steve did not want to."

Read more about Steve Ballmer's 33 years at Microsoft.

  • memadmax
    "Ballmer's Retirement Was Earlier Than Originally Planned"

    Thank GOD....
    Reply
  • alidan
    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 focused on empowering consumers in the activities they value most

    lets focus a bit

    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 focused

    little more

    transformation to a devices and services company focused

    lets hope they stop everything balmer wanted to do.
    Reply
  • hrhuffnpuff
    This smells, I personally think he was forced out or given an ultimatum. Or both since his products except Win XP, 7 and Xbox (360 included) sucked universally.
    Reply
  • irish_adam
    alidan dont be stupid, microsoft has to change and everyone seems intent on focusing on the recent mistakes but Balmer is a huge part of the reason that Microsoft is so big. Even if you dont take into account he has been with the company since the inception of windows he was in charge of the company for some of their biggest successes, the Xbox and the xbox 360, windows xp and windows 7

    Microsoft took a gamble with windows 8, i mean they had to do something the PC industry has been in a decline now for a while and without it microsoft is nothing. I mean yeah it was a flop and most consumers hate it (including me) but atleast they are trying to innovate and diverse which is what they need right now.

    Blame Balmer all you want but hes no idiot, he knows Microsoft has to change its just that no one really knows how. I mean how do you revolutionise an OS to revitalise the industry?
    Reply
  • Learn_w_Graffix
    After spending several hours with Windows 8 attempting to change settings so someone else’s new laptop would actually boot up (which it eventually did), it gives me some small satisfaction to point out the following behind-the-scenes message of this article.
    For all the "Windows 8 is so great!" comments by the few people that claim to like it, this says, very loudly, "WINDOWS 8 IS BAD!" How bad? Really bad. It is so bad that it even bumped Steve Ballmer out of Microsoft. THAT bad!
    Reply
  • alidan
    11431168 said:
    alidan dont be stupid, microsoft has to change and everyone seems intent on focusing on the recent mistakes but Balmer is a huge part of the reason that Microsoft is so big. Even if you dont take into account he has been with the company since the inception of windows he was in charge of the company for some of their biggest successes, the Xbox and the xbox 360, windows xp and windows 7

    Microsoft took a gamble with windows 8, i mean they had to do something the PC industry has been in a decline now for a while and without it microsoft is nothing. I mean yeah it was a flop and most consumers hate it (including me) but atleast they are trying to innovate and diverse which is what they need right now.

    Blame Balmer all you want but hes no idiot, he knows Microsoft has to change its just that no one really knows how. I mean how do you revolutionise an OS to revitalise the industry?

    so, a software company should change into a hardware manufacturing company? no lets use a better word here... adult toy company?

    want to know what microsoft should have done?

    make windows 8, and give it 3 modes, phone, tablet, computer.
    let the user decide what they want, and let them chose on boot up.
    for phones, have it by default always boot phone mode unless user specified.

    require 2 usb ports

    bam. dock the phone/table into a hdmi out so it uses the tv as a screen and there, instant pc with wireless keyboard and mouse of your choice.

    allow the pc to boot to desktop and dont take out a key feature (start menu)

    there, a product like that makes sense, not a toy you buy a 150$ keyboard cover for.

    want to know what they should have did about... what... 10 or so years ago...
    made a mobile os, a rudimentary phone os they could have kept alive as a pet project, there you would have had an in in the cellphone market from day one that way and the iphone would have been nothing.

    remember microsoft is first and foremost a software company, why would to move away from something that when done right prints money?
    Reply
  • house70
    11431168 said:
    Blame Balmer all you want but hes no idiot, he knows Microsoft has to change its just that no one really knows how. I mean how do you revolutionise an OS to revitalise the industry?

    how about this: implement all he changes you want, but leave options alive for people (and more importantly corporations) that want the classic desktop/Start button view.
    That way, the few ones that feel adventurous could use the Metro interface, the rest could stay with the classic desktop. And by classic desktop I mean keep all the functionality behind it, as well.
    Reply
  • itchyisvegeta
    not soon enough
    Reply
  • back_by_demand
    PC sales were in a slump well before Win 8, but the real question is if anyone else here was worth $15billion would you really have waited till 57 to retire? I would have been sunning on my yacht well before then.
    Reply
  • chumly
    When someone tries to attack your baby, you show them your teeth. Gates was just doing the same thing any mother would do.
    Reply