In an internal email to employees shared to the public, Steve Ballmer has revealed that he has scheduled his retirement as Microsoft’s CEO in 12 months. This announcement comes at a crucial time in Microsoft’s gaming division, but will itself have longer lasting repercussions.
Ballmer argues that it is the right time for him to make this transition, as Microsoft is shifting managerial focus to a devices and services company. His rationale is that the company needs a CEO who can steer them in this direction in the long term. Ballmer thinks highly of the Senior Leadership in Microsoft and is confident in their strategy.
Ballmer’s letter does not address the elephant in the room, which is the long term criticism of his tenure as Microsoft CEO. Around this time last year, Vanity Fair ran a story this time last year picking Ballmer apart completely, but if you listen to critics like David Einhorn and Roger Kay, he should have been fired long before.
To put this in perspective for us, Team Xbox is at the center of its own storm, attempting a recommunication of the Xbox One, when this news hits all of Microsoft. Ballmer will still be around for the Xbox One launch and most of its launch year, but Team Xbox will have to contend with new leadership that may or may not be sympathetic to the gaming division’s needs.
For the moment, this announcement does not materially affect Xbox, outside of some potential jeering press. In the long term, however, Xbox One faces an even more uncertain future.
Even more than Xbox, however, this also leads to uncertainty in the future of Windows, which many developers and platforms still rely on as the primary gaming OS. Neither Linux nor Mac is ready to replace Windows in this regard, in spite of what Gabe Newell says. As Microsoft goes off into a new direction, we will all have to wait and see what place gaming will take in it.