Is Steve Ballmer about to exit Microsoft?

June 20, 2010

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer could be about to exit stage left, at least if the speculation and rumors currently doing the rounds prove to be correct.

A great many people don’t like Steve Ballmer. Be it because of his very vocal approach to defending Microsoft while attacking its competitors, or because of his seeming lack of vision which has allowed Apple to overtake Microsoft in terms of market value, or for any of the other varying reasons people give for disliking the man who took over from the ever-popular Bill Gates.

When Apple overtook Microsoft in market cap last month, Ballmer’s kudos was battered when The New York Times published a chart showing how Microsoft has been on a clear downward trend since Ballmer took over from Gates in the year 2000. And in the weeks that have followed, more and more people have come out against Ballmer’s continued leadership at Redmond.

So the question that now has to be asked is: Will Steve Ballmer quit as CEO, either leaving Microsoft altogether, or shifting to a different role?

I happen to like Steve Ballmer. He clearly loves Microsoft and his job, and is passionate about all of Microsoft’s products. Not in a fake way either, which is the feeling I get whenever I watch Steve Jobs on stage raving about the latest Apple gadget. And for a CEO of a company the size of Microsoft, and a billionaire many times over, he’s more down to earth than I’d expect him to be.

So, should, and more importantly will, he go?

Maybe the time is right for a change at the top of Microsoft. With Apple in the ascendancy, and mobile devices tablet computing seeming to be the way the market is heading, and in a big way, it may need a new visionary to step in and chart Microsoft’s course for the future. Kevin Turner and Steven Sinofsky seem to be the names in the frame.

As to whether Ballmer will go? Possibly, but it won’t be quietly. That’s assured.

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