20 years ago, on January 13, 2000, Steve Ballmer was named the new CEO of Microsoft, marking the beginning of the end of the Bill Gates era at the company he and his friend Paul Allen had founded in an Albuquerque garage in 1975. While Gates stayed on board as Chairman of the Board and Chief Software Architect before giving up his day-to-day role at the company altogether in 2008, Ballmer served as CEO for more than 14 years, before being replaced by Satya Nadella in 2014.
Ballmer oversaw a difficult period at Microsoft, as the behemoth struggled to adjust to the new realities of the 21st century and smaller, more agile competitors such as Google and Apple capitalized on many of the technological trends emerging between 2000 and 2010. It wasn’t until Microsoft started embracing cloud services with the launch of Azure (2008) and Office 365 (2011) that success returned to Redmond, but the eventual success of the company’s cloud business is largely credited to Satya Nadella, who served as Senior Vice-President of Research and Development for the Online Services Division from 2007 to 2011 and oversaw the Azure cloud platform as President of the Server and Tools Division from 2011 until 2014.
Looking at Microsoft’s share price in the post-Gates era makes it rather clear why the Ballmer years aren’t remembered too fondly by the company’s shareholders. During his 14 years in charge, the share price dropped by 33 percent, whereas Nadella’s stint at the helm saw Microsoft’s share price skyrocket by more than 300 percent.