Aside from Bill Gates himself, it’s hard to imagine a CEO more respected (or, for that matter, more made fun of on the Internet) than Steve Ballmer. Ballmer took the helm of Microsoft thirteen years ago, and has led it through expanding into consoles, far more operating systems than we like to think about, and the rise of Photoshopping CEO faces onto professional wrestlers. And apparently he’s finally had enough.
Well, sorta. By all accounts Ballmer has pretty much achieved what he set out to achieve. Microsoft in 2000 wasn’t facing the same challenges that it is today: When Ballmer took over, the Internet stock bubble was still going strong, there were only 361 million Internet users in the entire world, Microsoft wasn’t in the console race, and the idea of a cellular phone that handled pretty much any task you could throw at it, let alone the idea that Apple would create and market such a device, was considered utter science fiction.
Man, things change a lot in a decade and a third. Now, of course, Microsoft is going to war over your living room with Sony, it’s trying to turn the actually quite good Window Phone OS into a competitor in the open market, and it’s currently dealing with complaints about Windows 8 from people who are, well, buying it anyway. Heck, Microsoft is making computers; if you’d told us that in 2010, we’d be wondering what prescriptions you’d been given.
Everything that went right or wrong with Microsoft happened under the watch of Steve Ballmer in the twenty-first century, and we’re sort of sad to see him go. He at least had a sense of humor about tech shenanigans, and he managed to keep Microsoft relevant even as the tech field splintered. He’ll be missed. Especially because we bet the next CEO won’t be as Photoshoppable.
Dan Seitz is an obsessive nerd living in New England. He lives in the Boston area with a fiancee, a dog, a cat, and far too many objects with processors.