Steve Ballmer announced that he planned on retiring within the next twelve months, ending a 13-year career as Microsoft’s CEO.
While Ballmer’s move was unexpected, it is worthwhile noting that Bill Gates’ Harvard classmate and Microsoft’s first business manager came under criticism over the years. He has often been depicted as a member of the Old Guard having missed many crucial technological transitions in the past decade.
"Since he took over in 2000, it is fair to say he missed a number of transitions: mobile, tablets, cloud," said analyst at ZK Research to Reuters.
"Microsoft continues to live off traditional PC computing. Ballmer's strength is traditional PC computing. He was a great guy for his era but times have changed and a new leadership is needed. It's hard to say his tenure has been a success," she added.
[ Related: Who will be next to lead Microsoft? ]
Many point to this lack of vision to explain how, though Microsoft revenues have tripled over the past decade, the share prices have remained stagnant. Last year, Forbes’ Adam Hartung went as far as saying that Ballmer was “the worst CEO of a large publicly traded American company today.”
One thing is sure, his eccentric public speaking appearances will long be remembered by both those who see him as a PR genius and those who see him as an obstacle to Microsoft's expansion.
1. Here's Ballmer advertising Windows 1.0 to his Nebraska audience, in 1986. Very early on, he had mastered the ability to awaken the most apathetic listeners by bombarding them with rhetorical questions in a frantic, high-pitched voice.
2. Why chang a successful recipe? In 2001, Ballmer makes an equally energetic plea for Windows XP. The great thing about the add is, we are not sure if it is made in all seriousness or intended as a self-caricature
3. At the 2011 San Francisco Web 2.0 Summit, a confident Ballmer said "you don't need to be a computer scientist to use a Windows Phone and you do to use an Android phone”
4. That awkward moment when you laugh at iPhone because "it doesn’t appeal to business customers"
5. If Ballmer was not at the forefront of technological developments at the turn of the new millennium, that's because he was busy working on other endeavours, such as creating new dances. Ballmer makes a remarkable entrance at an annual Microsoft conference, bouncing and screaming around the stage. He had just created the "Monkey dance."
6. “Developers, Developers, Developers” stresses a sweaty Ballmer at a 2009 conference, perhaps noticing too late in his speech that what he meant to say was "web developers."
Together for better or worse
7. The 1999 movie "Pirates of the Syllicon Valley," which explores the Apple and Microsoft rivalry between 1971 to 1997, recognizes the role Ballmer played at the early stages of Microsoft, as the company’s first business manager.
Considering his legacy, we are not too worried about Steve Ballmer's future. That is, so long as he remains close friends with Bill Gates and they can groove to Haddaway's "What is Love" once in a while.
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