Last Friday, Microsoft announced the surprise resignation of CEO Steve Ballmer. Ballmer, who had been assigned CEO in January 2000 is planning to step down within the next 12 months.
Succeeding Microsoft’s iconic founder Bill Gates, Ballmer had big shoes to fill and, given Microsoft’s current position, some say they might have been too big for the man who has been at Microsoft for more than 30 years. To be fair, Microsoft’s revenue almost quadrupled under Ballmer’s watch and the company is still immensely profitable. But at the same time, Microsoft has produced a number of flops in the past decade that ultimately Ballmer has to take responsibility for. Zune and Windows Vista aside, Ballmers’s biggest mistake was to underestimate the shift away from PCs towards mobile devices which poses a major threat to Microsoft’s core business. The tablet-optimized Windows 8 was too late and is too flawed to compete with mobile market leaders Apple, Samsung and Google.
Ballmer’s mixed track record is also reflected in Microsoft’s stock price, which dropped more than 30 percent since he took over on January 13, 2000. To add some perspective: Apple’s stock price soared almost 2,000 (!!) percent in the same time, and Google’s shares are up more than 700 percent since the company’s IPO in August 2004. When the news of Ballmer’s impending exit broke on Friday, the stock immediately shot up and closed with a sizeable 7 percent gain.