Aug 23 - Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer's announcement that he will retire within the next year did something for the stock not often seen - a pop. Conway G. Gittens reports.
PLEASE NOTE: THIS EDIT CONTAINS CONVERTED 4:3 MATERIAL Steve Ballmer is calling it quits after a less-than-stellar run at the top of Microsoft. The decision to retire within the next 12 months comes as a bit of a surprise. It's just one month after announcing a plan that was supposed to put the company on a faster growth path, focusing more on mobile and cloud computing. Ballmer, however, may have missed his chance. Admitting in a statement, he would have rather waited but "we need a CEO who will be here longer term for this new direction." Last month, Microsoft had to take a $900 million write-down for unsold Surface tablets, the device which was supposed to transform Microsoft into a hardware and software success like Apple. Consumers, however, didn't share this enthusiasm: SOUNDBITE: MICROSOFT CEO STEVE BALLMER (ENGLISH) SAYING: "What is going to get people buying computers again? That's a different kind of computer... REPORTER INTERRUPTING (ENGLISH): "That's a tablet." SOUNDBITE: MICROSOFT CEO STEVE BALLMER (ENGLISH) SAYING: "No. This is a full PC. This is a full PC. This isn't a tablet. This is a tab...yes it is a tablet and it's a PC. This is a windows personal computer." Not to mention Ballmer has yet to find a way to catch up to consumers' shift to the web, which is hurting sales of his key product - Windows - and made fast rising stars out of Google and Facebook. His one few success - gaming. But his failures put his job in jeopardy. Pressure has been mounting for weeks with activist investor ValueAct looking to shake things up - seeking a seat on the board - and finding a successor to Ballmer was at the top of the wish list. Now that he's on the way out - that won't be easy. He killed-off internal candidates during his 13-year rule and the board has hired an outside firm to find out if there are any internal candidates left or is the best choice from outside. And analysts say, whoever leads Microsoft will have to decide whether the time has come to break up the software giant, which may be harder after Ballmer's iron grip. Investors, however, are welcoming the end of the Ballmer reign by pushing the stock higher.