FILE – Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer speaks at a Microsoft event in San Francisco, Wednesday, June 26, 2013. Ballmer, who helped build Microsoft into a technology empire and then struggled to prevent it from crumbling under his own leadership, will retire within the next 12 months. The world’s biggest software company did not name a successor. Microsoft Corp.’s stock shot up 9 percent in premarket trading following the news. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)
NEW YORK (AP) — Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, who helped Bill Gates transform the company from a tiny startup into the world’s most valuable business, announced plans Friday to retire sometime in the next year — a move that presents another challenge to the tech giant as it struggles to move beyond the era of the personal computer.
Microsoft and other companies that thrived in the PC business have been scrambling to win back consumers who increasingly prefer smartphones and tablets.
Detractors say Ballmer contributed to the situation by not taking early threats from Apple and Google seriously enough. He consistently pooh-poohed Google as a one-trick company and in 2007 declared: “No chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share.”
Ballmer’s jeers proved premature. Google quickly made important inroads in Internet video, online maps, email and mobile computing. Those successes contributed to the damage that Apple’s iPhone and iPad did to Microsoft and its partners in the PC market.
Although it derives some three-quarters of its revenue from sales of software and services to businesses, Microsoft has failed to capture the imagination of consumers who have become more enamored with mobile gadgets. Response to the newest version of its flagship Windows operating system, Windows 8, has been lukewarm.
When Ballmer took the helm in January 2000, the company was worth more than $601 billion. Today, its value is less than half that amount, at nearly $270 billion.
“There is never a perfect time for this type of transition, but now is the right time,” Ballmer, 57, said in a statement. He planned to stay on until a replacement is found. Microsoft said the search committee would include Gates.