Steve Ballmer to retire as Microsoft CEO

Steve Ballmer:

I am writing to let you know that I will retire as CEO of Microsoft within the next 12 months, after a successor is chosen. There is never a perfect time for this type of transition, but now is the right time.

This is huge news.

You can certainly make an argument that Steve Ballmer has been a bad CEO for Microsoft. Their recent failures in the smartphone & tablet divisions were directly under his watch, as well as other product disasters like Windows Vista.

On the other hand though, Microsoft has continued their successes in the Office, server & enterprise areas, and Xbox has certainly flourished under his tenure. He made the company loads of money—even in a slumping PC industry—and was undeniably a CEO that lived and breathed everything Microsoft represented (for better or worse).

The real question when the dust settles will be… who can possibly fill Ballmer’s shoes? Right now, the Mary Jo Foley money is on Tony Bates, the current Microsoft VP of Business Development, Strategy and Evangelism.