10 Milestones of Steve Ballmer's Tenure at Microsoft

1 - 10 Milestones of Steve Ballmer's Tenure at Microsoft
2 - After Years With Microsoft, Ballmer Gets the CEO Gig
3 - Ballmer Overcomes Class-Action and Antitrust Lawsuits
4 - Taking Off the Gates Leash
5 - Revenue and Profits Soared Under Ballmer
6 - The Great Windows Vista Debacle
7 - The Great Windows 7 Resurgence
8 - The Great Windows 8 Debacle
9 - Where Did That iPhone (and iPad) Come From?
10 - Ballmer Sees the Future in the Cloud
11 - After Intense Pressure, Ballmer Steps Down
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10 Milestones of Steve Ballmer's Tenure at Microsoft

by Don Reisinger

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After Years With Microsoft, Ballmer Gets the CEO Gig

Steve Ballmer joined Microsoft in 1980, becoming the company's 30th employee and the first business manager hired by Bill Gates. During the next 20 years, Ballmer was groomed to lead Microsoft, and in 2000, he was officially named the company's CEO, taking over the spot from Bill Gates.

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Ballmer Overcomes Class-Action and Antitrust Lawsuits

One of the first challenges for Ballmer in his role as Microsoft CEO was overcoming the class-action and antitrust lawsuits his company was facing when he became chief executive. Rumors said that Ballmer was willing to settle the cases and move forward—something Bill Gates resisted. That resulted in the issues eventually going away and Microsoft's brand slowly but surely repairing itself.

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Taking Off the Gates Leash

Although Ballmer became Microsoft's chief executive in 2000, it wasn't until 2009 that he was fully able to shake Gates. That year, Gates resigned from his day-to-day role in Redmond, Wash., and officially left it all to Ballmer. Debate rages over Ballmer's tenure as Microsoft's CEO after Gates and whether he did a good job or a terrible one. The differences in opinion are truly that stark.

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Revenue and Profits Soared Under Ballmer

While it's easy to beat up on Ballmer, the company he built is nothing to ignore. During his tenure, Ballmer grew Microsoft's revenue from $25 billion per year to $70 billion per year. More importantly, he increased the company's net profit by 215 percent to $23 billion. Microsoft is such a massive, rich company today in large part because of Ballmer.

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The Great Windows Vista Debacle

The first big flub during Ballmer's career was Windows Vista. Ballmer called Windows Vista the next big thing for consumers and the enterprise, and he truly believed that it could transform the software market. Instead, people around the globe rebelled, OEMs started offering downgraded devices, and Ballmer was left with egg on his face. It wasn't his (or Microsoft's) finest hour.

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The Great Windows 7 Resurgence

To address the sins of Windows Vista, Microsoft launched Windows 7. That operating system was everything Windows Vista wasn't, including being focused on productivity and clear in its message as a replacement for Windows XP. The operating system became hugely successful and a key reason Microsoft's revenue and profits grew so substantially after the Vista debacle.

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The Great Windows 8 Debacle

Speaking of debacles, Windows 8 might just have been one of the biggest. Windows 8 was a major departure from Windows 7 and caused many to wonder whether Ballmer learned his lesson from Vista. Windows 8 has had extremely slow uptake, shipments in the enterprise are practically nil, and consumers have ignored the platform, leading them to Chromebooks and Apple's Macs. All in all, Windows 8 might just have been one of Ballmer's biggest mistakes.

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Where Did That iPhone (and iPad) Come From?

Ballmer's lack of ability to see the mobile frontier coming was a huge black mark on his career. Some went so far as to say that his scoffing at the iPhone at launch and his inability to see value in touch screens until it was too late were the worst moments of his tenure at Microsoft. Ultimately, it's that lack of understanding of mobile that led to his downfall.

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Ballmer Sees the Future in the Cloud

Once again, Ballmer was a little late to the party—this time with the cloud. While he did a good job of bringing out cloud platforms such as Azure and Office 365, his realization that we're in a "post-PC era" came far too late. By then, companies like Google and Apple were already eating his lunch. Ballmer helped establish Microsoft's cloud push, but it might not have been enough.

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After Intense Pressure, Ballmer Steps Down

Finally, after a long career at Microsoft, Ballmer announced last year that he would be stepping down as CEO once the board could find his replacement. Satya Nadella replaced Ballmer earlier this year as CEO, and now he's left the board as well to move into the next phase of his career: basketball team owner.

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