Ballmer Blockbuster: Microsoft CEO Will Retire Within 12 Months

Microsoft said its board of directors, including Microsoft Chairman of the Board Bill Gates, has appointed a special committee to find a new CEO.

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"As a member of the succession planning committee, I'll work closely with the other members of the board to identify a great new CEO," said Gates. "We're fortunate to have Steve in his role until the new CEO assumes these duties."

Bob Venero, CEO of Future Tech, a Holbrook, N.Y., Microsoft partner, said he is hopeful that Ballmer's replacement will result in a Microsoft that focuses more on "value" when it comes to its channel relationships rather than just "girth."

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"Ballmer, bye-bye," said Venero, who noted that during Ballmer's 13-year tenure as CEO, Future Tech's Microsoft product and services revenue became a mere one-tenth of what it was when Ballmer took the helm. "I think this gives the channel and especially companies like me hope that an individual will come to the plate that will be loyal to solution providers and not just loyal to those few LAR and direct marketer organizations that are just pushing product and not solutions."

Venero said he hopes Gates will have the biggest role in picking a successor to Ballmer.

"The No. 1 recruiter for this position should be Bill Gates," he said. "This is Microsoft's opportunity to innovate from both a product and channel standpoint. It's going to be an interesting time to watch Microsoft. Gates and those looking for his successor should be focusing not on what Microsoft is or was, but what it can be."

Ballmer joined Microsoft in 1980 and was the company's 30th employee. Before becoming CEO, his roles at Microsoft included senior vice president of sales and support, senior vice president of systems software, and vice president of marketing.

Ballmer was the company’s first business manager and led key initiatives at the Redmond, Wash., company, including development of the .Net framework, the Xbox video game console and the Bing search engine.

In a prepared statement, John Thompson, lead independent director of the board, said the company is "committed to the effective transformation of Microsoft to a successful devices and services company."

"As this work continues, we are focused on selecting a new CEO to work with the company's senior leadership team to chart the company's course and execute on it in a highly competitive industry."