Steve Ballmer's Legacy: 10 Factors, Events That Have Marked His Career

By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2013-08-23 Print this article Print

Microsoft's announcement Aug. 23 that CEO Steve Ballmer will retire from the company within the next 12 months occurred at a crucial time for the tech giant. He didn't say exactly when he'll officially depart from the software giant, but the board of directors has already appointed a special committee that will search inside and outside the company for a replacement. Once that replacement has been named, the era of Microsoft founders and early hires running the company will be over. Ballmer was named Microsoft CEO in 2000. His retirement comes at a time when Microsoft must determine its future as a mature tech company in a rapidly changing market where its once-pre-eminent position has long been under assault by competitive forces. Ballmer has been celebrated as a dynamic chief executive by his fans and one of the oddest CEOs by those who haven't loved his random outbursts of unbridled enthusiasm and his fast-talking dynamism. Ballmer is a polarizing figure in the technology industry, so before he's officially put out to pasture, it'd be a good idea to evaluate what he has done—and what he has not. Here's a look at Steve Ballmer's legacy and some of the events that marked his 13-year career as Microsoft's CEO.

  • Steve Ballmer's Legacy: 10 Factors, Events That Have Marked His Career

    by John Pallatto
    1 - Steve Ballmer's Legacy: 10 Factors, Events That Have Marked His Career
  • Stepping Into and Out of Bill Gates' Shadow

    Steve Ballmer had no easy task taking over Microsoft. Its renowned co-founder Bill Gates, who was a lightning rod of controversy in the technology industry, previously ran the company. After taking over as CEO in 2000, Ballmer acknowledged that he was in his predecessor's shadow, but before long, he broke out. And now, Ballmer will have his own shadow to cast on whoever comes next.
    2 - Stepping Into and Out of Bill Gates' Shadow
  • Exuberant Behavior Came With the Territory

    Who can forget some of Ballmer's finest moments on stage? From the time he yelled "developers" over and over again to the moment when he ran on stage screaming like a mad man, Ballmer was fun to watch. Sometimes, that behavior helped improve morale within Microsoft. Other times, it made the company a running joke. But if nothing else, Steve Ballmer is who he is.
    3 - Exuberant Behavior Came With the Territory
  • The Windows Vista Nightmare

    No discussion on Steve Ballmer could be complete without mentioning one of his worst decisions ever: pushing Windows Vista on the world. That operating system was not ready for prime time when it launched, and Microsoft's attempt to force it on the enterprise and consumers was a bad move. Vista was the start of Apple's PC expansion and made at least some people question whether Microsoft could stay dominant over the long haul.
    4 - The Windows Vista Nightmare
  • A New, Game-Friendly Microsoft

    The Xbox totally changed the way consumers viewed Microsoft. When the game console launched more than a decade ago, Microsoft was viewed solely as a software company. But since the Xbox's launch, Ballmer was able to make his company look like a credible hardware maker as well as a producer of consumer products and software. It was a fascinating move, and one that's still positively impacting his company.
    5 - A New, Game-Friendly Microsoft
  • Failure to See the Changing Mobile Wave

    The mobile market was a conundrum for Ballmer, and his company's current, single-digit market share seems to prove that. When the iPhone launched, Ballmer laughed at it. When Android came out, he thought it wouldn't work. Now, Windows Phone is far behind iOS and Android, and Ballmer is being blamed for that. Quite honestly, he should be blamed.
    6 - Failure to See the Changing Mobile Wave
  • The Mistake That Is Windows 8

    Windows 8 has been nothing short of an epic failure. And Ballmer, along with his executives, believed that the operating system would be a hit. Windows 8 was widely believed to be Ballmer's last chance to show his worth, and he failed miserably. Windows 8 is dead in the water. And Ballmer is to blame for that.
    7 - The Mistake That Is Windows 8
  • Stronger-Than-Ever Financial Performance

    Although he's had his missteps, Ballmer has also presided over an immense expansion of Microsoft's wealth. During his tenure, profits have soared by billions of dollars, and the company's revenue figures have far eclipsed anything it was generating in the late-1990s when it was firing on all cylinders. If financial performance was Ballmer's only measure, he'd be doing quite well.
    8 - Stronger-Than-Ever Financial Performance
  • Some Smart Investments Here and There

    Ballmer didn't make too many bad investments. In fact, his company invested heavily in Yahoo, which has turned out to benefit his search platform. And when Ballmer decided to take a small share in Facebook that eventually turned into a nice profit, he was heralded as a genius. Even Microsoft's Skype investment was a good one. As of late, Ballmer's made some smart investments.
    9 - Some Smart Investments Here and There
  • Rabid Shareholder Hatred for His Stewardship

    Shareholders really, really, really don't like Steve Ballmer. Nowhere is that more apparent than in the reaction they had after his retirement announcement. Soon after he said he'd be retiring, Microsoft's shares jump by more than 8 percent. And looking ahead, many analysts believe the shares will remain strong, due in large part to concern over Ballmer's stewardship.
    10 - Rabid Shareholder Hatred for His Stewardship
  • The Recent Decline of the PC Market

    It wouldn't be possible to evaluate Steve Ballmer without acknowledging the rapid decline of the PC market. Ballmer was supposed to be the gatekeeper for the PC industry, a market that keeps its core businesses afloat. Instead, he presided over the decline of PCs, as tablets—and not the Surface—took hold. Microsoft needs someone who can improve the company's PC initiative. And unfortunately, Ballmer isn't that person.
    11 - The Recent Decline of the PC Market

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