Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer Will Retire Within Next 12 Months

There's evidently only so much a man can take, and honestly, this shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone: with profits falling, the PC industry as a whole crumbling in the wake of tablet and smartphone supremacy, and Windows 8 falling short of most expectations, Microsoft's CEO is throwing in the towel. Steve Ballmer, months after a complete re-org at the company, has just announced that he'll be winding down his role as CEO over the next 12 months, with Microsoft's board of directors now initiating a succession process. Until a successor is named, Ballmer has agreed to remain on as CEO.

Essentially, he has agreed to hang around up to 12 months, but if they find a soul willing to take on his corner office job before that, he'll leave ahead of that 12 month deadline. “There is never a perfect time for this type of transition, but now is the right time,” Ballmer said. “We have embarked on a new strategy with a new organization and we have an amazing Senior Leadership Team. My original thoughts on timing would have had my retirement happen in the middle of our company’s transformation to a devices and services company. We need a CEO who will be here longer term for this new direction.”

Steve Ballmer, reorganizing Microsoft

The Board of Directors has appointed a special committee to direct the process. This committee is chaired by John Thompson, the board’s lead independent director, and includes Chairman of the Board Bill Gates, Chairman of the Audit Committee Chuck Noski and Chairman of the Compensation Committee Steve Luczo. The special committee is working with Heidrick & Struggles International Inc., a leading executive recruiting firm, and will consider both external and internal candidates.

One has to wonder who exactly is going to be up for the job. On one hand, the pay check will certainly be stellar. On the other, the pressure to perform will be immense. Microsoft has been slipping from its glory days for years now, and turning things around isn't going to be easy. The world has changed, and Windows + Office just aren't as necessary as they once were. Whoever takes the job on won't face an easy road ahead -- in fact, we suspect many candidates are going to be scared away simply because of the pressure that'll be there from investors.