What’s behind Steve Ballmer’s exit as Microsoft CEO? Where does this leave the company? Is there more to the story than we’re hearing? What will Ballmer do next? And who are the most likely candidates to succeed him as chief executive?

ballmer-headshotThe GeekWire news team just emerged from the studio at KIRO Radio, where we explored all of those questions, and more, in a special segment for this week’s GeekWire radio show and podcast. See the video above for a sneak peek as John Cook and Todd Bishop discuss Ballmer’s decision to step down, and the implications for the company and the broader community.

“You look at the abruptness of the decision, and you have to suspect that there’s more going on there behind the scenes,” Todd says, pointing out that Ballmer has been able to hang on for so long in large part because he had the support of Bill Gates.

[RelatedIn the end, Ballmer’s biggest failing was his own optimism]

In terms of successors, John agrees with GeekWire readers who say that Ford CEO Alan Mulally is at least a possibility, although other potential candidates such as former Skype leader Tony Bates and former Microsoft executive Paul Maritz are more realistic. Other ideas outside the company include Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, the former Microsoft board member, and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg.

[RelatedMicrosoft’s next CEO: Maritz, Sinofsky and more possible candidates to replace Ballmer]

Whoever gets the job, John is betting that the new CEO will come from outside the company.

“I think they’re moving into a new era,” he says. “They want fresh blood.”

That’s interesting because those experiments, bringing in top leaders from outside the company, have flopped at Microsoft in the past.

Listen to the full discussion above, and tune in for the show this weekend on GeekWire and KIRO Radio in Seattle.

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  • http://mckoss.com/ mckoss

    This is a great opportunity to end the era of a single monolithic Microsoft. Rather than finding one uber-CEO, why not break up the company into more readily managed units, each with the best-aligned leader in that area?

    I would love to hear from an analyst about total valuation of the individual parts of Microsoft as compared to the integrated valuation we have today. Would “wall street” like to see a break-up at this point?

    • panacheart

      I think this is a key point. I’ve argued this point for years, and had my head chewed of at MS for even thinking it. But not only are the sum of the parts worth more than the whole, but strategically this is the reason many of their products have failed. With every new offering or revised offering, internally the mantra was to create integrated services – the phone was to be a great exchange companion, Bing was to enhance the experience of other services and devices, and so on. And all of this mean that each product team couldn’t focus on the core value proposition of its own product, but had to appease the executive team’s vision of enhancing another team’s product or service.

      Instead making a futile attempt to “integrate the silos”, let each silo stand on its own. The company would be more nimble, could more easily innovate in each division. With such a wide array of products and services the monolithic approach just didn’t work for MS.

  • clibou

    NSA’s Prism program has thrown privacy into the spot light for consumers and enterprises alike. A leader who can align and drive trusted sharing into Microsoft’s devices and services and sell Microsoft’s differential competitive strength is my pick for CEO. Also helps narrow down possible candidates.

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