An announcement this past week from Microsoft was a bit of a surprise. Steve Ballmer is stepping down as Microsoft's CEO, retiring sometime in the next 12 months. I haven't been a fan of Mr. Ballmer's efforts at running Microsoft across the last 13 years. I think he tried to run Microsoft as a good, safe investment, assuming that the strengths of Windows and other products would carry on through the future. The XBOX and SQL Server have grown into great successes across the last decade, but I'm not sure much else of Microsoft's product line has excited investors or customers.
Perhaps most importantly, developers haven't become more excited by the directions of the company. The "developers, developers, developers" mantra that Ballmer espoused years ago seems to have been more of a line better suited to Bill Gates. Too many technologies introduced and abandoned, too many changes of direction without strong, continued support from the company. It's been a hodge podge of languages, frameworks, and APIs that haven't managed to excite the world of web and mobile development.
In its history as a company, only Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer have served as CEOs for the company. It's time for the third CEO to take over, and there doesn't appear to be a great list of people being mentioned. Ray Ozzie was assumed to be a possibility a few years ago, but his time at Microsoft seems to have been a bit of a failed experiment. Perhaps some of the acquisitions have an internal candidate, and there are quite a few highly experienced former employees that have moved on to other high profile roles.
Whoever gets chosen, I sincerely hope that it's a person that loves technology and can inspire, excite, and drive the company to build new and exciting products that leap forward. Having another business person, a bean counter, or salesman, would be a poor disappointing choice for me.