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Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer will retire in the next 12 months

Steve Ballmer, the current CEO of Microsoft, will be retiring within the next 12 months, according to a post on Microsoft’s website. Ballmer will continue as CEO of the company in the meantime while a replacement is sought out by a special committee approved by the Board of Directors.

The news comes as quite as shock. Microsoft is still trying to transition to the new Metro interface of Windows 8, and the fate of Windows RT – along with the relevant hardware from Microsoft’s partners – still hangs in the balance. Ballmer concedes, however, that the company needs a leader who will be prepared to guide the company in the long term.

“There is never a perfect time for this type of transition, but now is the right time,” Ballmer said in Microsoft’s post. “My original thoughts on timing would have had my retirement happen in the middle of our company’s transformation to a devices and services company. We need a CEO who will be here longer term for this new direction.”

“This is a time of important transformation for Microsoft,” he continued. “Our new Senior Leadership team is amazing. The strategy we have generated is first class. Our new organization, which is centered on functions and engineering areas, is right for the opportunities and challenges ahead.”

It’s unclear if Ballmer is leaving the position of his own accord. Microsoft is still a force to be reckoned with in the industry, but the company has been slow to gain traction in the mobile marketplace with Windows Phone. Windows RT has proved to be a miss for Microsoft, and even tablets running full Windows 8 have failed to catch on so far. Still, the stock market seems to be reacting well to the news of Ballmer’s future departure.

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