Microsoft announces CEO Steve Ballmer to retire

Microsoft announced on Friday that Steve Ballmer, CEO, is to retire. Confirming the news via a press release, the Redmond-based company stated that Ballmer would continue in his role as CEO until a successor was chosen.

"There is never a perfect time for this type of transition, but now is the right time," Ballmer is quoted as saying.

"We have embarked on a new strategy with a new organisation and we have an amazing Senior Leadership Team. My original thoughts on timing would have had my retirement happen in the middle of our company's transformation to a devices and services company. We need a CEO who will be here longer term for this new direction."

Microsoft said that it has set-up a committee to handle the process of finding a new CEO, including chairman Bill Gates, with both internal and external candidates to be considered for the role.

"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."

In a separate internal email to staff, Ballmer wrote:

"Microsoft is an amazing place. I love this company. I love the way we helped invent and popularise computing and the PC. I love the bigness and boldness of our bets. I love our people and their talent and our willingness to accept and embrace their range of capabilities, including their quirks. I love the way we embrace and work with other companies to change the world and succeed together. I love the breadth and diversity of our customers, from consumer to enterprise, across industries, countries, and people of all backgrounds and age groups."

You can read the full text of Steve Ballmer's retirement announcement email here.

The news will see one of the industry's more colourful characters stepping to one side, but might not come as a surprise. Microsoft has been under increasing pressure, with the likes of Apple and Google leading the way in the move towards mobile devices and services. There have been a number of calls from shareholders for Ballmer to step down in the past.