Steve Ballmer ends run as Microsoft's relentless salesman

Fri Aug 23, 2013 5:24pm EDT
 
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By Bill Rigby

SEATTLE (Reuters) - Few CEOs wielded more power than Microsoft chief Steve Ballmer.

And yet the company's first and foremost salesman never gained the respect he deserved for his role in transforming Bill Gates' tiny startup in the woods outside Seattle into the world's largest software maker.

Ballmer, who announced his retirement from the head of Microsoft Corp on Friday, had the misfortune to follow megastar Gates at the helm just as the company hit the end of its explosive growth period and faced a resurgent Apple Inc under an inspired Steve Jobs.

The Detroit native, who met Gates at Harvard, was doubly unfortunate that his ascent to the CEO office in January 2000 came just weeks before the bursting of the dot.com stock bubble, from which Microsoft's share price never recovered.

Although Ballmer did treble revenues at Microsoft during his time in charge, and managed to steer the company away from obscurity or crisis that befell other tech firms, he consistently attracted criticism for management miscues.

Under his watch, Apple and Google Inc roared past Microsoft in the emerging arena of Internet search, smartphones and tablets, which made the software company look stodgy and behind-the-times.

"He tried hard. Nobody can doubt his commitment to Microsoft," said Sid Parakh, an analyst at fund firm McAdams Wright Ragen. "The missing element was execution."

His attempt to catch up was a failed $47 billion bid for fading internet giant Yahoo Inc in 2008, a company which is now worth much less. Yahoo's inexplicable decision to reject the deal probably saved Ballmer's job.   Continued...

 
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer gestures during his keynote address at the Microsoft "Build" conference in San Francisco, California in this file photo from June 26, 2013. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith/Files