Bill Gates Was The Only Person That Could Fire Steve Ballmer (And It Sure Looks Like He Did)

Bill Gates tablet 2000ReutersBill Gates with a Microsoft tablet in 2000

Kara Swisher at All Things D has a big story on Steve Ballmer’s “retirement” as CEO of Microsoft.

Her main takeaway: Ballmer’s decision to step down “seems to have technically been Ballmer’s” but, “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.”

For the longest time, it’s been said that only Bill Gates can fire Steve Ballmer. While he may not have technically fired Ballmer, there’s no indication he didn’t want Ballmer to leave.

In his exit interview, Ballmer was asked if Gates asked him to stay or go. His response: No. Bill — I mean, no. Bill respects my decision. I mean, it’s one of these things when if it’s — you know, ultimately these kinds of things have to be one’s own personal decision.””

It sounds like Ballmer’s departure was a decision between him and Gates. So, unless either of them plans to open up about the truth about what went down, we’re going to have to largely speculate.

If we had to guess… We’d say the $US900 million write down on the Surface coupled with a tepid reaction to Windows 8 were wake up calls to Ballmer and Gates.

Those two products were Ballmer’s best effort to fight the rise of Android and iOS. They failed.

And so, Gates (and maybe Ballmer) probably realised it was time to get someone new in as CEO to lead development of the next version of Windows.

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