29th Aug 2013

What's next for Microsoft?

“There is never a perfect time for this type of transition, but now is the right time” Steve Ballmer said on Friday by way of announcing his plan to retire as CEO of Microsoft Corp within the next 12 months. The news came as a shock to many, as it was just a month ago that long time CEO Ballmer revealed plans for a vast reorganisation of the entire corporation. Now it looks like he will not be around to see this through, though Microsoft are assuring anxious employees that this organisational transformation – which is centred around devices and services – will go ahead despite Ballmer’s impending departure.

Ballmer’s departure comes hot on the heels of a string of recent  executive departures. Head of the Windows division Steven Sinofsky left in November, while Xbox chief Don Mattrick and CFO Peter Klein both left this summer. This has left Microsoft with a number of senior leaders all of whom are relatively new to their roles. And now there is more change afoot.

Microsoft is one of the most valuable companies in the world, yet it has suffered in latter years as the desktop market slumped with the huge increase in mobile and tablet sales. Last October Microsoft released the Windows 8 operating system with bated breath, but it failed to make an impact on PC sales, as had been hoped. This isn’t to say that Microsoft isn’t making money – Windows 8 has been selling at a rate of 10 million licences a month. But Microsoft’s inability to keep up with mobile computing advances of this century has left its profitability largely reliant just on Windows licence sales.

At the moment the board’s lead independent director John Thompson is heading the hunt for the new chief executive; rumours are rife and curiosity is peaking. Will the new CEO be an internal appointee? Or a leader poached from another company? Either way it will have to be some one with unquestionable leadership skills.

Microsoft’s new CEO will have to find his or her feet in a company which is already undergoing great change, and he or she will have to make some grave decisions about the future of this company while maintaining the morale of a workforce who will be facing yet more uncertainty. We cannot predict what will come next for Microsoft, but like many, we are awaiting the new developments with great interest.

Hilda Goold

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