Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer to retire within 12 months

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is stepping down. The 57-year-old is retiring, according to Microsoft's official press release, and he'll leave the company within the next 12 months. Here's the word straight from the source:

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

That's rather subdued announcement for a man know for his... enthusiasm.

Ballmer has been with Microsoft since 1980. He was named CEO in 2000 and took on even more responsibility for the company's direction in 2006, when Bill Gates relinquished his role as chief software architect. Although Microsoft's revenue has increased substantially with Ballmer at the helm, he's certainly had his critics. Their cries have become louder as Microsoft has struggled to adapt to the changing computing landscape. Casual computing is migrating from traditional PCs to mobile devices, and Microsoft has appeared ill-prepared for the shift. Microsoft's push to become a "devices and services company" is part of its effort to remain relevant.

Microsoft has formed a special committee to seek Ballmer's replacement. The search will extend beyond Microsoft's current staff, and company Chairman Bill Gates will play a role in selecting Ballmer's successor. The press release is surprisingly bereft of glowing accolades thanking Ballmer for his years of service. Instead, Gates is quoted as saying "We’re fortunate to have Steve in his role until the new CEO assumes these duties."

A lot of folks will be happy to see Ballmer gone, but given everything the man has done for the company, he deserves a better send-off. Play yourself out, Steve:

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