Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer to Step Down

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is ready to retire and plans to be out of his executive office within the next 12 months. Mr. Ballmer took over as CEO when company founder Bill Gates stepped down, and now he says Microsoft needs a new CEO on board as the company transitions into a devices and services business.

Microsoft CEO is ready to turn in his executive washroom keyMicrosoft CEO is ready to turn in his executive washroom key

Mr. Ballmer said in a statement,

There is never a perfect time for this type of transition, but now is the right time. 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.

Microsoft is still the big name in operating systems with its various versions of Windows, and its Office suite is the defacto standard for wordprocessing and spreadsheets in the workplace. Even with those big successes under its belt, Microsoft's leadership has decided to transition into a company that builds its own devices and offers services to support those products.

Mr. Ballmer is staying on until his successor is found. The company's board of directors has formed a committee to start the hunt, and Mr. Gates said he's part of that team.

Microsoft has been criticized for the Ballmer leadership over the past few years over concerns that the company hasn't been able to successfully launch new products. Major Windows updates have received lackluster responses, the Surface tablet is suffering from weak sales, and even the new Xbox -- the reigning king in the home gaming system market -- suffered from negative press.

News that Mr. Ballmer is retiring seems to have pleased investors, too. The company's stock started climbing Friday morning after the announcement was made jumping over 7 percent to US$34.70 after closing Thursday night at $32.39.

If investor sentiment is any indicator, Mr. Ballmer's retirement is the best announcement Microsoft has made in a long time.