Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer will hang up his boots in the next one year and the technology giant has started the process of choosing his successor who faces the daunting task of beating rivals like Apple and Google.
After an over 13-year stint as CEO, Ballmer has decided to retire within the next 12 months upon the completion of a process to choose his successor, the Bill Gates co-founded Microsoft said in a statement posted on its website.
"There is never a perfect time for this type of transition, but now is the right time," 57-year old Ballmer said in an email to Microsoft employees.
"My original thoughts on timing would have had my retirement happen in the middle of our transformation to a devices and services company focused on empowering customers in the activities they value most. We need a CEO who will be here longer term for this new direction," he added.
The Board of Directors has appointed a special committee to direct the process.
The committee is chaired by John Thompson, the board's lead independent director and includes Chairman of the Board Bill Gates, Chairman of the Audit Committee Chuck Noski and Chairman of the Compensation Committee Steve Luczo.
The special committee is working with Heidrick & Struggles International Inc, an executive recruiting firm and will consider both external and internal candidates, Microsoft said in a statement.
"The board is committed to the effective transformation of Microsoft to a successful devices and services company. As this work continues, we are focused on selecting a new CEO to work with the company's senior leadership team to chart the company's course and execute on it in a highly competitive industry," Thompson said.
Ballmer had drawn criticism from investors for allowing rivals like Apple and Google to race ahead in the mobility space. Microsoft is now trying to transform itself to focus on devices and services rather than just software. It has also partnered Norweigan handset maker Nokia.
Bill Gates said Microsoft is "fortunate to have Steve in his role until the new CEO assumes these duties". Ballmer took over the reins of Microsoft in early 2000.
Ballmer said the step was "emotional and difficult". "I take this step in the best interests of the company I love; it is the thing outside of my family and closest friends that matters to me most," he added.
He said he would continue as one of Microsoft's largest owners.
Ballmer joined Microsoft in 1980 and was the company's first business manager. Under his leadership, Microsoft has more than tripled revenue and doubled profits since 2000.