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Microsoft hunts for a new CEO as the Steve Ballmer era winds down

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Microsoft is in one of the most challenging periods in its 38-year history, and Steve Ballmer — its CEO for the last 13 years — is on his way out. In August, Ballmer announced that he'll retire just as soon as the company finds his successor. The decision comes after a major reorganization that aims to turn Microsoft into a "devices and services" company.

The challenges the company faces are massive: Windows 8, Windows Phone, and Surface tablets have each so far failed to find the blockbuster status that the PC-dominating company was once known for. And it's taking on the phone division of struggling Nokia, with a $7.2 billion bet that it can make its own smartphones without alienating hardware partners in the process. The path forward isn't clear and Ballmer is leaving with a mixed legacy. However, two things are clear: Ballmer's charismatic and passionate leadership style is one of a kind, and Microsoft's next boss will take the reins at an intensely difficult time.

28 updates and 5319 comments below.

Feb 04 9:38a

Read Satya Nadella's first letter to employees as Microsoft's CEO

It's official, Satya Nadella is Microsoft's next CEO, and on his first day on the job he's sent a letter to the whole staff. In the letter, Nadella speaks of what he thinks makes Microsoft a great company, and where he thinks it can go in the future. He warns that "While we have seen great success, we are hungry to do more. Our industry does not respect tradition — it only respects innovation." Nadella also lays out a bit of his plan for the company. He mentions that he requested Bill Gates...

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9:01a

Microsoft's new CEO is Satya Nadella

It's official: Microsoft’s search for a new CEO is over. Following recent speculation, the software giant is indeed appointing Satya Nadella as its new CEO to replace Steve Ballmer. The 46-year-old Nadella will take over immediately, allowing Ballmer to retire early. Nadella had been one of a number of candidates that Microsoft is believed to have interviewed for the role; the company originally said it was pushing to name its Ballmer successor before the end of last year. Despite the fact...

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Jan 30 5:02p

Bloomberg: Microsoft's new CEO will be Satya Nadella, Gates may be out as chairman

Reports say that Microsoft is considering Satya Nadella to step in as the company's new CEO after a months-long search. He has been near the top of the list of expected candidates to take Steve Ballmer's role, and now Bloomberg and other outlets report that he is likely the next to take the job. Microsoft spokesperson Frank Shaw declined to confirm or deny the reports, telling The Verge, "We are not commenting." Bloomberg's sources note that the decision has yet to be finalized, but he has...

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Jan 20 5:14a

Ballmer may resign from Microsoft board after new CEO is named, Gates' role still unclear

Microsoft’s new CEO search has continued into 2014, but a new rumor suggests that outgoing CEO Steve Ballmer is planning to step down from Microsoft’s board of directors. Citing "people familiar with the situation," Recode reports that Ballmer won’t be directly involved with Microsoft’s board once a suitable CEO replacement is found. While Ford’s Alan Mulally ruled himself out of the position earlier this month, recent reports suggest Microsoft is also considering Ericsson CEO Hans Vestberg...

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Jan 07 6:11p

Ford’s Alan Mulally rules himself out of Microsoft CEO job

Speculation over Microsoft’s next CEO has intensified in recent weeks, but Ford’s Alan Mulally has finally confirmed he will not be leaving the automotive company in favor of Microsoft. In an interview the Associated Press today, Mulally says he wants to put the rumors to rest. "I would like to end the Microsoft speculation because I have no other plans to do anything other than serve Ford," Mulally says. He also eased concerns from Ford investors that he might be departing for Microsoft,...

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Dec 23 1:00p

Beyond Ballmer: meet Microsoft’s top CEO candidates

Big shoes to fill in the house that Bill Gates built Continue reading »

Dec 17 1:10p

Microsoft's CEO search will extend into the early part of 2014

Microsoft has been hard at work looking for a CEO to replace outgoing leader Steve Ballmer, but it looks like we'll have to keep waiting for the company's final choice. Despite a desire to have a new CEO ready to go by the end of 2013, the company has just admitted that its search will go on for the time being — the company expects its search to be complete in the early part of 2014. Microsoft board member John W. Thompson admitted as much in a blog post released today.

We identified over...

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Dec 12 5:40p

Microsoft reportedly considering Qualcomm COO Steve Mollenkopf for CEO

Microsoft has been hunting for a new CEO to replace Steve Ballmer since August — the company has said it hopes to get someone on board before the end of 2013 — and now a new name has entered the running. According to a report from Bloomberg, Microsoft is said to be considering Qualcomm Chief Operating Officer Steve Mollenkopf for the job. Mollenkopf joins the rest of Microsoft's rumored short list, which is reported to include Ford CEO Alan Mulally, former Nokia CEO Stephen Elop, Microsoft...

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Dec 11 7:05a

Ballmer's exit interview reveals his influence on Xbox and settling lawsuits

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is preparing to retire from the software giant in the coming months, and ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley has interviewed Ballmer and a number of current and former Microsoft executives for Fortune magazine to provide what’s expected to be Ballmer’s final press interview as CEO. While there’s no insight from Ballmer on his recent strategic misses with Microsoft's tablets and smartphones, he does reveal that one of his first decisions as CEO was to enter the gaming market....

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Dec 05 11:10a

Microsoft CEO candidate Alan Mulally staying at Ford 'through 2014'

Ford CEO Alan Mulally has been floated as a leading candidate to succeed Steve Ballmer as Microsoft's chief executive. But Ford board member Edsel Ford II says Mulally will be sticking with the company through the end of 2014. That would seem to disqualify him from taking the reins at Microsoft, since the tech stalwart is looking to find a new CEO inside of a year. "Alan is staying through the end of 2014 and that’s all I know," said Ford II, who is the great-grandson of founder Henry Ford....

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Nov 28 4:16a

Stephen Elop's rise to Microsoft CEO seen as ‘less likely’

Microsoft appears to be narrowing its CEO search even further. The software maker previously reportedly shortlisted Ford CEO Alan Mulally, former Nokia CEO Stephen Elop, Microsoft cloud boss Satya Nadella, and former Skype president Tony Bates. Bloomberg News now reports that Microsoft’s board is focusing on Mulally and Nadella. Bates and Elop are said to remain potential candidates, but they’re both "less likely" to be offered the position.

While Mulally appears to be the favorite to...

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Nov 15 4:30p

Ballmer admits Microsoft needs a new leader for change

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is planning his retirement in the next nine months from the software giant he helped build, but he’s also assisting with a reorganization for his successor. In exclusive interviews with The Wall Street Journal, Ballmer recounts what led to his surprise resignation announcement from Microsoft in August. Microsoft’s board had been rightly pushing Ballmer to go faster. Lead director John Thompson had been pushing Ballmer to move faster as competitors gained ground on...

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Nov 05 8:02p

Microsoft reportedly narrows CEO shortlist to Ford, Nokia, Skype and Azure leaders

Who will be Microsoft's next CEO? Reuters is reporting that the company now has a shortlist of just about five names, including Ford CEO Alan Mulally, former Nokia CEO Stephen Elop, Microsoft cloud boss Satya Nadella, and former Skype president Tony Bates. Citing anonymous sources, the publication writes that the hiring process could still take a few more months and that Microsoft is still interviewing other candidates — challenging a previous rumor that the company might have a new chief...

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Oct 10 2:49a

Microsoft wants a new CEO by the end of the year

Microsoft is said to be working towards replacing existing CEO Steve Ballmer by the end of the year. Bloomberg News reports that the Microsoft board has been drawing up a list of candidates ahead of initial interviews, while planning to have the new CEO in place by the end of the year. The board is said to have already spoken with Ford CEO Alan Mulally, former Nokia CEO Stephen Elop, former Microsoft executive Paul Maritz, and Microsoft's business development and evangelism chief Tony Bates....

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Oct 07 4:28p

Ballmer's final shareholder letter outlines the future for Microsoft

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer unveiled his plan to transform the software maker into a devices and services company during his shareholder letter last year, but this year's final address is more about reflection, execution, and a future with a new Microsoft CEO. Ballmer is planning to retire from Microsoft within the next 12 months, and he says he's writing his last shareholder letter "as the CEO of the company I love." That love was demonstrated clearly recently when he bid a tearful farewell...

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Oct 03 7:23p

Microsoft board of directors recommends Gates and Ballmer for re-election

Some Microsoft investors might not be happy with the idea of Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer continuing to guide Microsoft after retiring from the CEO role, but it seems likely that both will continue to do just that. On November 19th, company shareholders will vote on the new board of directors, and today the board has recommended that both Gates and Ballmer be re-elected to their positions there.

Gates has served on the board of directors since 1981, and is presently the company's largest...

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Oct 02 11:15a

One month after Nokia deal, what is Microsoft's plan?

What does the Microsoft of the future really look like?

It's been four weeks since the company announced its $7.2 billion plan to acquire Nokia's phone business, cementing CEO Steve Ballmer's plan to transform Microsoft from a software provider into a devices and services company, and the answer is getting fuzzier by the day.

The main issue is that Ballmer himself is leaving Microsoft in the next 12 months — he offered a tearful goodbye to employees at last week's annual companywide meeting...

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Oct 01 8:43p

Bill Gates should step down, say three top Microsoft shareholders

In Steve Ballmer's tearful farewell to Microsoft, he assured employees that they would build amazing things without him at the helm. "We will deliver the next big thing... we will change the world again." Some shareholders, however, believe that the company can't make necessary changes simply by replacing a CEO. Today, Reuters is reporting that three of the top 20 Microsoft investors are also calling for Microsoft chairman Bill Gates to step down.

According to Reuters:

The three investors...

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7:01p

Ford CEO Mulally sidesteps rumors that he could become Microsoft's next chief

Alan Mulally is known for turning companies like Ford and Boeing around while at the helm, but while Microsoft may be hoping he can do the same thing again after its CEO Steve Ballmer steps down sometime within the next year, Mulally isn't speaking to the possibility just yet. According to USA Today, Mulally denies that he's already planning on making the jump over to Microsoft from his current position as Ford's CEO. "I love serving Ford and have nothing new to add to [my] plans to continue...

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Sep 27 11:08p

Exclusive video: Steve Ballmer's intense, tearful goodbye to Microsoft

Outgoing Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has always been a speaker and performer like no other — his absolute enthusiasm for his company is electric in person, turning ordinary corporate events into raw displays of emotion that are often criticized but never forgotten.

That energy was on full display earlier this week, as Ballmer led his last Microsoft employee meeting as CEO — he's announced his plan to step down within 12 months, and the search for a new chief executive is currently underway....

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Sep 26 8:26p

Ballmer bids tearful farewell to Microsoft, promises it will 'deliver the next big thing'

Microsoft's Steve Ballmer bid farewell to employees today at his final company meeting as CEO. After announcing his intentions to retire within the next 12 months, Ballmer's speech today was clearly an emotional moment for him personally. According to sources familiar with the meeting, Ballmer told employees "we will deliver the next big thing... we will change the world again." During his hourlong speech, Ballmer discussed the Nokia deal and him passing over the CEO role to a new leader.

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Sep 20 11:10a

Microsoft looks to Apple and Google to reinvent itself

Microsoft announced a massive company-wide reorganization earlier this year, and now it's starting to reveal exactly how that will impact its businesses going forward. During a meeting with financial analysts yesterday, Microsoft CFO Amy Hood detailed how the software maker is moving from its traditional model to a new one based on devices and services. Previously, Microsoft has always generated most of its money through licensing software on PCs. In the future, Microsoft wants to make money...

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Sep 19 7:51p

Ballmer sees Microsoft's 'almost no share' in mobile as an opportunity, regrets mistakes

Speaking at Microsoft's financial analysts meeting today, CEO Steve Ballmer was refreshingly realistic about the company's struggles in smartphones and tablets. "Mobile devices. We have almost no share," he admitted on stage, before noting he didn't know whether to be enthusiastic over his admission or uncomfortably tense. "But I'm an optimistic guy, any time we have low market share sounds like upside opportunity to me." That upside opportunity is the key reason Microsoft moved to secure...

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Sep 10 1:28a

Microsoft investors want Ford's Mulally as the next CEO

With longtime Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer having announced his plans to retire, everyone is hungry to find out who his successor will be. And while early rumors pointed to outgoing Nokia CEO (and longtime Microsoft exec) Stephen Elop, some prominent voices are pushing for the company to hire someone that specializes in turning around troubled firms. Reuters reports that "at least three" of Microsoft’s top 20 investors are urging its board to consider Ford CEO Alan Mulally and Computer...

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Sep 03 1:56a

Steve Ballmer on Microsoft's future, and whether Stephen Elop is the next CEO

In a surprising move early Tuesday, Microsoft announced that it would be acquiring Nokia's devices and services division, effectively making the Finland-based phone maker a first-party hardware manufacturer for Windows Phone devices (and their related services). Stephen Elop will step aside as CEO of Nokia and return to Microsoft as head of its devices team — this all on the heels of the recent announcement that Steve Ballmer would step down as Microsoft CEO within the next 12 months.

The...

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Aug 27 5:35p

Microsoft suggests bias in media's 'puzzling' Steve Ballmer coverage

As members of the press and public weigh in on Steve Ballmer's impending departure from Microsoft, the company is today delivering an emphatic message: the best is still to come. But Redmond isn't happy about the tone of media coverage in recent days. VP of communications Frank Shaw has taken to the official Microsoft blog to call out "variability" and "radically divergent conclusions" he's seen following Ballmer's surprise announcement. "The key thing that determines how we interpret a set...

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Aug 23 2:02p

Beyond Ballmer: who will be Microsoft's next CEO?

After 33 years at Microsoft, Steve Ballmer announced today that he plans to retire from his position as CEO within the next 12 months. The surprise exit comes 13 years after Ballmer took over from Bill Gates as Microsoft's CEO in January 2000. He may have tripled revenues and doubled profits during his reign, but Ballmer is leaving to make way for a new devices and services strategy as the company continues to battle for market share in smartphones and tablets. Ballmer won't be around to see...

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9:43a

Here's Steve Ballmer's full goodbye letter to Microsoft

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer announced his plans to retire within the next 12 months today. In an internal memo to employees, titled "moving forward," he details the "emotional and difficult" decision to retire. Here's the full email to employees:

9:06a

Steve Ballmer to retire as Microsoft CEO

Microsoft has just announced that CEO Steve Ballmer will retire within the next 12 months. He will step down from his post as soon as the process of choosing his successor has been completed. Ballmer has written an open email to the Microsoft team explaining the decision and the strategy for "moving forward." He had this to say in the official Microsoft press release:

"We have embarked on a new strategy with a new organization and we have an amazing Senior Leadership Team. My original...

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