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4/26/2014
09:06 AM
Rob Preston
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Top 10 Secret Reasons Microsoft CEO Ballmer Retired

Steve Ballmer didn't get the credit he deserved, as evidenced by Microsoft's strong financial position when he resigned. Here are 10 reasons you've never heard about why he stepped down.
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(Source: Wikimedia Commons)

I'm going to stick my neck out here and say that former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, who retired in February, didn't get the credit he deserved during his extraordinary 34-year career at Microsoft. While he was CEO from 2000 to 2014, the company generated an astounding $120 billion in profits and shifted its strategic focus and much of its market-leading software to the cloud. As of the beginning of the year, Microsoft was sitting on $84 billion in cash and cash equivalents. No small feat.

Microsoft's financial report on Thursday shows some of the big chinks in that armor -- a soft Windows business and a flailing Windows Phone business among them. But the fact that the company's stock is now trading near its 52-week high indicates that investors think Ballmer left a still-solid foundation for new CEO Satya Nadella to build upon.

Yes, Microsoft is way behind iOS and Android in mobile computing, remains an also-ran in search, is losing the browser wars to Firefox and Chrome, and is off to a very slow start with its Surface tablets. But it can't dominate every market in an age of rapid digital innovation and disruption. And while all of Microsoft's traditional strongholds -- Windows, Office, SharePoint, Exchange, SQL Server -- are under threat, that's the nature of the software business. It's worth noting that its SQL Server, System Center, Windows Server Premium, and Lync businesses grew by double digits last quarter, while its Azure cloud business grew 150%, thanks largely to the early success of Office 365.

Microsoft has managed a deft evolution in most of its core products (with the exception of Windows), and Nadella is now looking to tie them together under a strategy he calls "ambient intelligence." The goal: Make it easier for users at companies of all sizes to pull data from their Microsoft stores, as well as from sensors, social networks, server logs, and other third-party sources, to make more-informed decisions.

As for Ballmer, I hope he and his wife are enjoying their $20 billion in wealth and turning more of their attention to philanthropy now that he's retired. I had the privilege of interviewing Ballmer three or four times during my career, and I always found him to be personable and genuine, as well as overwhelmingly passionate. And he has a very sharp sense of humor, so I'm hoping he'd get a kick out of the following parody. Please weigh in with your own barbs.

Rob Preston currently serves as VP and editor in chief of InformationWeek, where he oversees the editorial content and direction of its various website, digital magazine, Webcast, live and virtual event, and other products. Rob has 25 years of experience in high-tech ... View Full Bio

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Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Ninja
4/27/2014 | 9:51:01 AM
Re: He was 50% An Idiot
To be fair, the XBox Kinect has seen enterprise applications and successes.

Enterprise technology often gets adopted when it becomes popular enough in the consumer market.  Case in point: the iPhone (which CIOs largely hated at one point, back when Blackberry was cock of the walk).
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Ninja
4/27/2014 | 9:47:35 AM
Re: More reason's why Steve Ballmer retired
It's highly unlikely that a plaintiff would be able to pierce the corporate veil to endanger the CEO's assets.  That's part of the point of the corporation structure (the trade-off being double taxation).

The worst that would happen to him if a major lawsuit happened would be having to take time out of his schedule to testify in a deposition or a trial.

BeeR435
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BeeR435,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/27/2014 | 1:18:08 AM
Re: He was 50% An Idiot
jbelkin - That may be true, but a little formatting goes a long way - your giant wall of text could be more intelligently organized... and shorter - much shorter.  Also ALL CAPS often underminds your arguments... just aying.
petey
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petey,
User Rank: Strategist
4/26/2014 | 8:35:51 PM
Credit
Maybe he is smarter than he got credit for? In this era of transformation maybe he was smart enough to step aside and let the younger Turks push the rock.
jbelkin
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jbelkin,
User Rank: Strategist
4/26/2014 | 6:18:05 PM
He was 50% An Idiot
You are free to kiss his *** or yea, there's no reason to beat a dead horse but you broight it up. When Gates left, it was a simply the high tech industry. By 2000, it started to cleave between an enterprise tech market and a consumer high tech market. If MS concentrated on the former, you can see where they would be - massive with 80% margins and HUNDREDS of BILLIONS in the bank or also owning other major brands in the enterprise tech industry. Instead, because Ballmer wanted his legacy to be as great as Steve Jobs-Bill Gates, he WASTED HUNDREDS of BILLIONS chasing the consmer market that they clearly had NO BUSINESS in now and then. Just as Cisco bailed on their consumer brands, Ballmer figured by sheer will, they would be hugely successful. Here's the difference - in the music indstry, Ballmer tried to lock up digital with WMA by selling the DRM setup to the music industry - works great for them but consumers hated it - first with MP3's and later because Apple figured out that if you actually figure out what consumers wanted, they would win - in fact, through most of the ipod era, all itunes tracks were still with DRm so it wasn't just that but the fact that MS' culture couldn't figure what consumers wanted. But hey, why not spend a billion on the ZUNE years too late to make a difference. The Xbox? MS spent $20 BILLION to launch it and eetually wrote it off - bottom line, they needed to sell 1-billion units to break even, they fell about 900 million units short - that is Ballmer's math. ANd what's worse, by selling a $5K WIN PC without virii and driver issues as an Xbox for $399 & later $299, they killed the high end PC Market ... or in 10 years, $1k+ WIN PC's wnt from 97% market share to less than 1% today. So, not only has the Xbox created a $30 billion black hole, how much did they lose by killing the $1k WIN PC market? Or his topper - predicting the iphone is NOTHING. The iPhone division is LARGER than ALL OF MICROSOFT - think about that. It's one thing to be defeated by a nimbler competitor but it's another where the CEO does NOT recognize the future AT ALL. Or Google, MS dismissing that search is worth anything so they basically gave up on MSN. How much as Google taken in ad sales in the past 10-years? Ballmer kept his job ONLY because he was Gates roommate in college - for shareholders, Ballmer probably costed them $250-$350 BILLON in equity (whether in market cap or dividends that were wasted on things like plays4aure, Bob, $6 BILLION for Vista, Zune, Xbox, KIN, win CE, win mobile, webTV, surface RT, etc, etc ...) in fact, Ballmaer had exactly ZERO consumer successes* in his ENTIRE career as CEO. Think about that. He may have cost one corporation the most amount of market cap & writeoffs in the history of corporations - so he has that ... and walks away with $20 billion after stock buybacks to prop up the stock after HE tanked it. Ballmer was a fine bad cop during the Gates early era of tech but BOTH of them were outclassed and out-clued when the high tech industry switched. Gates was smart enough to get out and be seen as a good guy. Ballmer was not a war-time general - he was fine when all you needed was a guy to shout to get people to march around nice but he was the Pearl Harbor commander who piled all his planes and ships together.
mcsnert
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mcsnert,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/26/2014 | 12:13:28 PM
More reason's why Steve Ballmer retired
Mr. Ballmer didn't retire.  He took his money and ran as fast as he could. He saw all the lawsuits coming from consumers, partners, down-line, vendors and governments.
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