Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer at an earlier employee meeting.
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer at an earlier employee meeting.

Here’s the memo sent by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer to employees this morning, announcing his plans to retire from the company within 12 months.

I am writing to let you know that I will retire as CEO of Microsoft within the next 12 months, after a successor is chosen. There is never a perfect time for this type of transition, but now is the right time. My original thoughts on timing would have had my retirement happen in the middle of our transformation to a devices and services company focused on empowering customers in the activities they value most. We need a CEO who will be here longer term for this new direction. You can read the press release on Microsoft News Center.

This is a time of important transformation for Microsoft. Our new Senior Leadership team is amazing. The strategy we have generated is first class. Our new organization, which is centered on functions and engineering areas, is right for the opportunities and challenges ahead.

Microsoft is an amazing place. I love this company. I love the way we helped invent and popularize computing and the PC. I love the bigness and boldness of our bets. I love our people and their talent and our willingness to accept and embrace their range of capabilities, including their quirks. I love the way we embrace and work with other companies to change the world and succeed together. I love the breadth and diversity of our customers, from consumer to enterprise, across industries, countries, and people of all backgrounds and age groups.

I am proud of what we have achieved. We have grown from $7.5 million to nearly $78 billion since I joined Microsoft, and we have grown from employing just over 30 people to almost 100,000. I feel good about playing a role in that success and having committed 100 percent emotionally all the way. We have more than 1 billion users and earn a great profit for our shareholders. We have delivered more profit and cash return to shareholders than virtually any other company in history.

I am excited by our mission of empowering the world and believe in our future success. I cherish my Microsoft ownership, and look forward to continuing as one of Microsoft’s largest owners.

This is an emotional and difficult thing for me to do. I take this step in the best interests of the company I love; it is the thing outside of my family and closest friends that matters to me most.

Microsoft has all its best days ahead. Know you are part of the best team in the industry and have the right technology assets. We cannot and will not miss a beat in these transitions. I am focused and driving hard and know I can count on all of you to do the same. Let’s do ourselves proud.


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  • Olivier

    Microsoft won’t be the same without Ballmer. As controversial as he was, he added flair and guts to the company. I hope it’s an internal hire – I can’t imagine someone outside MS heading MS.

  • CuriousOffice

    I assume the man was amazing but Microsoft needs a Marissa Mayer now. Congrats to them.

  • Guest

    Finally… New blood was an absolute need.

  • ilovethiscompany

    Here’s the farewell letter he should have written:

  • Bob

    That memo is a great example of how delusional Ballmer is and why he needed to go. Microsoft has all its best days ahead? We’ve been hearing this same promise since 2000. But outside of growing revenue and profit, albeit at a fraction of the rate of Google or Apple, it’s been a “lost decade” competitively. That’s undeniable and it’s pretty stupid to pretend differently. The MS of 2000 was dominant and feared. In 2013, it’s a laughing stock. And he can tout the profit he made shareholders all he wants, but the actual record of shareholder return is a disaster: no gains in THIRTEEEN YEARS and a net loss of around 40%.

    • Jay

      Don’t blame on the content of the memo. If you are a CEO in one company, no matter whether if you love or hate the company, how sucks or success your company, you’ll write the same song. Its your job to publish positive things about your company.. You should know that. Unless you never work in one big company.

      • Michael Destefanis

        That’s one of the problems in society today. People sugar-coat their failures to the point of sheer public denial. MS’s transition to a devices and services company has clearly severely damaged it. Sometimes you really just have to stick with what you’re good at rather than try to change. Change really only works if you incorporate what you are good at with what you are wanting to do and ensuring that your roots are left strong. MS had a good run in recent years with the success of Windows XP and Windows 7. Windows Vista was merely an unfinished Windows 7 that should have actually been a service pack for Vista.

        It is quite possible to admit failure gracefully and if anything will gain more respect from the public. Not many people out there like a liar or being fed bullshit, most I would argue do not want to hear sugar-coated excuses and praise.

    • Michael Destefanis

      I was actually surprised to see how low MS’s stock is given how large the company is. They focused too much on a transformation and lost track of what they really are. A software company. For a transition of such a large company to change it’s business model it still needs to stay good at what actually built up the company. That’s it’s foundation after all. While I am quite pleased with Windows XP and Windows 7, MS has just gone way off the track in the grand scheme of things. Apple doesn’t innovate as they claim to.. given most of their product is derived from other works and ideas and I was actually hoping for MS to keep some pressure on Apple. Pressure after all is good since it promotes competition and drives technology forward. I think that was a large reason for the computer revolution but similar to the .com burst, I wonder if MS will meet a fate like those failed companies back in the .com burst. Broke because they couldn’t adapt to their place in the market.

      As far as devices and services, Amazon, Google and Apple are what come to mind for me. MS just…they’re not really a device and services company. They make operating systems, productivity software and video games. Even on their games division they’ve been trying to transform which is just.. no. Serious gamers are not about saying “Xbox, turn on!” “Xbox, switch to tv!” and tailoring an entire entertainment center around 1 console. No. We own all of them and a modern tv set will accomplish the same thing with a vocal command to switch the video source.

      I could go on clearly you are already in the wise as to MS’s ongoing failures to change what it was built up to be.

  • Gloria Estefan

    Finally something to “get on our feet” for —

  • Developers


  • Guest

    Well, after predicting that 2013 would be “the most epic year in Microsoft history”, I guess he had to do something or else be wrong yet again.

  • Michael Destefanis

    Ah, so that’s what’s been wrong with Microsoft. Transformation from a software company to a devices and services company? That explains why their software has been lacking as of late. Personally I don’t feel this is a good transformation from them. And their bottom line proves that.

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