Steve Ballmer, the chief executive officer of Microsoft, announced on August 23rd that he would be retiring within the next twelve months. This action has led Microsoft to question its future as a company, and its hopes for a replacement leader. Ballmer states in his press release “my retirement happened 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 hopes to reshape their company with this transition of management. Many believe the company should change their focus from being a business company to a company focused on technological advancement, the direction when Bill Gates was the CEO. The public’s negative view of Ballmer at Microsoft was reflected in its stock rise– after announcing his retirement, the company’s stock went up by 7%. Balmer’s departure leads speculators to believe that new management will reshape the company in a positive way.
Ballmer and Gates met after their sophomore year at Harvard University. Gates founded Microsoft and recruited Ballmer to be the first business manager for the company. Ballmer is a natural businessman–he has a head for numbers. Yet he has been criticized for lacking the ability to recognize the potential success of a product. When Gates retired in 2008, Ballmer laughed in a USA Today interview; he was positive that “there’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance… I want to have products that appeal to everybody.” The sales of the iPhone later amounted to more than Microsoft’s total revenue that same year. Founder Bill Gates brought Microsoft success with his inspiration and innovation in technology during his time in the company, including Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. Under Ballmer, Microsoft has continued to sell Gates’s old software instead of producing new material.
As Microsoft seeks to replace Ballmer, they are specifically looking for someone with new ideas, innovation and hardware to breathe life back into the company. Many say Ballmer, along with many Microsoft employees, represents sales and finance more than anything, unlike its competeting companies, Apple and Google. Microsoft, Apple, and Google make a touchscreen smartphone complete with “apps” and a built-in camera. Microsoft remains in third place in the US smartphone market, even after buying out Nokia–former star of the cellphone market–cementing a place behind their competitors. Microsoft closed the $7.2 billion deal with Nokia in early September 2013, working to challenge the other software companies in the market. Microsoft is hoping to soon join software with hardware, taking inspiration from Apple’s past successful products–each featuring software and hardware gracefully stitched together into one product in the market. The company has begun to look for a CEO replacement who will bring Apple’s customer appeal to Microsoft.
Ramon Cardenas, former Microsoft senior employee (Sales Director, Global Solutions, 2008-13; Business Development Director, Worldwide Cloud Solutions, 2009-11), now works at Avanade, a small company partnered with Microsoft. Cardenas stated in an interview with the Paper Tiger staff that “the company needs a more strategic leader–a CEO who can create a better, more streamlined and simple customer experience, like Steve Jobs.” He was working at Microsoft when Bill Gates retired in 2008 and Ballmer took over. Cardenas described the transition between the two leaders as “almost unnoticeable.” Many hope that the new CEO will mimic a similar style- a person within the company who will gracefully carry Microsoft through this transition, while in addition bringing in new ideas and inspiration. Microsoft hopes that the change of CEOs will allow the company to become a stronger and more innovative competitor, as are both Apple and Google, in both the hardware and software market.