Microsoft shares surge as CEO Steve Ballmer quits
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer will quit within 12 months, the company says in a statement.
The surprise news saw Microsoft shares [NAS:MSFT] climb more than 7% in late trading on the Nasdaq.
Ironically - given some commentators saw him being forced out - Mr Ballmer's personal wealth as a major Microsoft shareholder increased by about $US800 million with today's stock price jump.
Mr Ballmer (57) joined Microsoft in 1980, and in 2000 became the company's second CEO, succeeding Bill Gates.
Mr Gates, now chairman, will sit on the special board committee that will pick Mr Ballmer's successor.
Under Mr Ballmer, Microsoft made record profits and remained a cash machine. In its quarter to June 30, even with an embarrassing $US900 million write-off related to poor sales of its Surface RT tablet, Microsoft made $US4.96 billion on revenue that increased 10% against the year ago quarter to $US18.06 billion.
The company's Office suite has remained a cash cow, its strategy of moving corporate software food chain has paid paid off. Microsoft has moved aggressively into the cloud. And in the consumer market, the Xbox caught up then passed Sony's once all-dominant PlayStation.
But it today, it's the CEO's missteps that will make the headlines. Microsoft has been crunched by Google in search. It largely missed out on the social media revolution.
And under Mr Ballmer's watch, Microsoft was also slow to pick up on the the persuasive move to smartphone and tablet computing. The CEO was famously cynical about the iPhone's prospects. And it has not been until the past couple of years that the company has developed a coherent mobile strategy, with the same(ish) version of Windows running across its smartphones, tablets and PCs. That strategy could yet pay off - but it wo't be under Mr Ballmer's watch.
In sharemarket terms, there's a long way to come back.
Durig the dotcom boom of the late 1990s, Microsoft's market cap hit $US850 billion (in today's dollars), a high water mark that not even Apple has come close to. Today, Microsoft is worth $US289 billion.