Microsoft's Ballmer retirement more pushed than planned say sources

Steve Ballmer's surprise announcement that the Microsoft CEO would retire within twelve months came after significant internal pressure to step down, sources suggest, despite the chief execs own insistence to the contrary. The unexpected news gave Microsoft stock a jolt last week and set rumor-mongers whispering, but according to AllThingsD's research from unnamed sources inside the company, the decision is seen as the result of a push rather than Ballmer opting to step down voluntarily.

"Sources said Ballmer's timeline had been moved up drastically — first by him and then the nine-member board, including his longtime partner and Microsoft co-founder and chairman Bill Gates — after all agreed that it was best if he left sooner than later" AllThingsD

No one issue accounted for the increasing tensions, the insiders suggest, but instead a growing number of complaints and concerns have led to questions about Ballmer's role. Not least, though, has been the company's struggles to compete with Apple, Google, and others in segments like the cloud, tablets, and smartphones.

Although Ballmer was generally upbeat in the open letter revealing his plans to depart sometime within the next year, those inside Microsoft have fixed upon a number of points – either inclusions or omissions – as evidence that the shuffle wasn't entirely voluntary. For instance, Ballmer himself admits that his "original" plan wasn't to leave during Microsoft's ongoing transition:

"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" Steve Ballmer

However, it's the absence of any mention of Microsoft founder – and current chairman – Bill Gates that has prompted the most speculation. That Ballmer failed to even thank Gates has been viewed as "as an unusual slight and a sign of a rift", it's claimed.

Nonetheless the speculation is still, at this stage, just that: other insiders within Microsoft argue that the omission of a Gates namecheck is in fact intended to suggest Ballmer still has the chairman's support That's despite leaks indicating that while Gates may not have begun the process of ousting the CEO, he may not have been as supportive of Ballmer as he had been in the past."

In the meantime, Microsoft faces an ongoing investor revolt from ValueAct, which had demanded Ballmer be replaced, and there are suggestions that the CEO opted to bow out earlier than he initially intended so as to avoid what many say was a foregone conclusion with a painful process.