Microsoft's Ballmer bids adieu as rumors continue to swirl about his successor

Outgoing Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) CEO Steve Ballmer held his final meeting with employees on Thursday, in what was reportedly a highly emotional event for the executive, who is stepping down after three decades with the company. Meanwhile, rumors continue to circulate about Ballmer's potential successors.

microsoft steve ballmer


According to both The Verge and Reuters, which cited unnamed sources who attended the employee-only meeting, Ballmer spoke to more than 13,000 or so full-time Microsoft employees at a company meeting about the bright future he said is still in store for the software maker. Ballmer said in August he will depart sometime in the next year, as soon as his successor is chosen by Microsoft's board.

Ballmer is leaving as Microsoft is trying to fashion itself as a devices and services company, one that is in the midst of buying partner Nokia's (NYSE:NOK) handset business. Microsoft's Windows Phone platform seems positioned to be the strongest platform to challenge Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android and Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iOS, but its global market share is still in the low single-digits--Microsoft captured 3.3 percent of the global smartphone market in the second quarter, according to research firm Gartner; that was up from 2.6 percent in the year-ago quarter.

Ballmer told employees "we will deliver the next big thing...we will change the world again," according to The Verge, and said the company had more work to do after he leaves.

At one point Ballmer, whose energetic antics and use of music at company events is the stuff of legend, chose to play Michael Jackson's "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'," the song played at Microsoft's first employee meeting in 1983.

"We have unbelievable potential in front of us, we have an unbelievable destiny," Ballmer said, according to Reuters, reusing a quote from the 1983 meeting. "Only our company and a handful of others are poised to write the future," he continued. "We're going to think big, we're going to bet big."

According to The Verge, Ballmer ended the speech with Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes' "(I've Had) The Time of My Life" playing in the background before he screamed, "I've had the time of my life!" and continued to dance and run around the stage. Reuters said at this, he received a standing ovation.

Meanwhile, according to AllThingsD, which cited unnamed sources close to the situation, Ford Motor Co. CEO Alan Mulally is now the front-runner to succeed Ballmer, something Mulally has denied he is interested in. The report said Mulally was not seeking the job at first, but has started to open up to the idea in recent weeks. Microsoft declined to comment and Ford spokesman Jay Cooney declined to comment on "speculation." Cooney said that there is "no change from what we announced in November," that Mulally is planning on staying with Ford through 2014.

Executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles has been conducting a search with Microsoft's board for a successor to Ballmer. John Thompson, Microsoft's lead independent director, heads the board committee that is conducting the search. One possible name that has been floated openly is Stephen Elop, the former Microsoft executive who left to run Nokia, and who has now stepped down as CEO of Nokia. Elop is serving as executive vice president of Nokia's devices and services business, and plans to return to Microsoft in 2014 as part of Microsoft's purchase of Nokia's phone business.

In other Microsoft news, the company is planning to consolidate its Windows Phone Store mobile app marketplace with its Windows Store for desktop software, unnamed sources told The Verge. For more on that story, click here.

For more:
- see this The Verge article
- see this Reuters article
- see this AllThingsD article
- see this WSJ article (sub. req.)
- see this separate The Verge article

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