Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer calls it quits, will leave within 12 months or when a successor is found

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Screen Shot 2013-08-23 at 3.16.19 PMMicrosoft’s stock is surging, up 8% in pre-market on the news that Steve Ballmer will be vacating the CEO role within the next year.:

REDMOND, Wash. — Aug. 23, 2013 — Microsoft Corp. today announced that Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer has decided to retire as CEO within the next 12 months, upon the completion of a process to choose his successor. In the meantime, Ballmer will continue as CEO and will lead Microsoft through the next steps of its transformation to a devices and services company that empowers people for the activities they value most.

“There is never a perfect time for this type of transition, but now is the right time,” Ballmer said. “We have embarked on a new strategy with a new organization and we have an amazing Senior Leadership Team. 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.”

The Board of Directors has appointed a special committee to direct the process. This 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., a leading executive recruiting firm, and will consider both external and internal candidates.

“The board is committed to the effective transformation of Microsoft to a successful devices and services company,” Thompson said. “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.”

“As a member of the succession planning committee, I’ll work closely with the other members of the board to identify a great new CEO,” said Gates. “We’re fortunate to have Steve in his role until the new CEO assumes these duties.”

Microsoft’s stock has been flat since Ballmer took over the CEO roll from Bill Gates at the turn of the century. Ballmer has faced increasing criticism lately over the failure of the Surface RT and Windows Phones in a market dominated by Apple’s iOS devices and Android/Google devices. Perhaps his biggest gaffe was laughing off the importance of the iPhone (below).

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iPhone closes gap on Android during May, grabs 31% of T-Mobile smartphone sales

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Following stats from comScore late last month for smartphone market share by vendor and OS, research firm Kantar Worldpanel is out today with its own numbers for the three month period ending in May. While Kantar puts Android at the same 52% of the market during May as comScore, it has Apple slightly higher at 41.9% of the market (up 3.5% from the same period last year) compared to the 39% comScore reported:

Through the 3 month period ending May 2013, Android continues to lead smartphone sales at 52%. Close behind is iOS with 41.9% of sales.

Kantar notes that Apple’s increase is thanks to T-Mobile picking up the iPhone 5, which is now the best selling smartphone at the carrier despite only being available since mid April. Thanks to iPhone, T-Mobile could soon increase its share of smartphone sales in the US, as Kantar notes all iPhone models counted for 31% of the carrier’s smartphone sales during the quarter. Currently the carrier holds just 10.1% behind Verizon (34.6%), AT&T (29%), and Sprint (12.7%).

The report notes T-Mobile has been attracting a lot of first time smartphone buyers since getting the iPhone with around 53% upgrading from feature phones: Read more

Just months after being ejected from Microsoft, former Windows Head Steven Sinofsky is already Tweeting from iPhone

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Immediately following the release of the Microsoft Surface in November, Microsoft sent its Windows head Steven Sinofsky packing. Just a couple of months later, he is already trying out a new platform: iOS.

We were tipped to a tweet from Sinofsky (@stevesi) from January 11th that was sent from Twitter for iPhone. We soon discovered a second tweet from the same platform on January 4th. Sinofsky is still tweeting from his Microsoft Surface and the Web, but we don’t see as many Windows Phone-based tweets as we do earlier in his Twitter timeline.

Sinofsky spent the last week at CES where he documented the 15 hours he spent on the show floor.

After all of those years using the required Windows Phones, it sure didn’t take him long to hop over to iOS.

Update: Sinofsky has commented on Twitter about his use of the iPhone:

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Microsoft CEO Ballmer still thinks iPhones are too expensive, opens door to Microsoft doing their own phone

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has been making the rounds following the launch of Windows 8 and Surface, and yesterday he sat down for an interview in Santa Clara with LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman. TechCrunch pointed us to audio from the interview (embedded above), where Ballmer is asked about the role of Windows Phone 8 within the iOS- and Android-dominated smartphone market. Ballmer famously laughed about the iPhone’s high price point back in 2007, but apparently, the Microsoft CEO still thinks iPhones are priced too high. While claiming Android’s ecosystem is “not always in the consumer’s best interest,” Ballmer made a point of mentioning the high cost of iPhones abroad:

The ecosystem of Android is a little bit wild, from an app compatibility perspective, a malware perspective… maybe in a way that’s not always in the consumer’s best interest… conversely, the Apple ecosystem looks highly controlled, and by the way, quite high priced. The fact that we live in a country where almost every phone is subsidized, you may forget it. But I was in Russia last week where you pay $1000 for an iPhone.. you’re not going to sell that many iPhones… The question is how do you get the quality, but maybe not the premium price. A controlled, but maybe not quite as controlled ecosystem.

Reuters also has a quote of Ballmer from an event last night, when the CEO seemed to hint at the possibility of a Microsoft-branded smartphone: Read more

iPhone 5 reviews released: ‘Impossibly light but solid feel, iOS is speedy on the expansive screen’

Engadget:

The iPhone 5 is a significant improvement over the iPhone 4S in nearly every regard, and in those areas that didn’t see an upgrade over its predecessor — camera, storage capacity — one could make a strong case that the iPhone 4S was already ahead of the curve. Every area, that is, except for the OS. If anything, it’s the operating system here that’s beginning to feel a bit dated and beginning to show its age.

Still, the iPhone 5 absolutely shines. Pick your benchmark and you’ll find Apple’s thin new weapon sitting at or near the top. Will it convince you to give up your Android or Windows Phone ways and join the iOS side? Maybe, maybe not. Will it wow you? Hold it in your hand — you might be surprised. For the iOS faithful this is a no-brainer upgrade. This is without a doubt the best iPhone yet. This is a hallmark of design. This is the one you’ve been waiting for.

The Loop:

Many of us have experience with LTE from using the iPad. I’ll tell you it’s great to see it on the iPhone. I actually use LTE more on the iPhone than I do on the iPad, simply because I use the phone a lot more. The speed is incredibly fast, especially when compared to what the iPhone 4S could do.

Like the faster processor and graphics, LTE gives you the feeling of never waiting for anything. Apps open fast and you are ready to work or browse the Web right away.

The Telegraph:

Specificationists will say that with the iPhone 5 Apple is now behind its rivals in terms of features but in truth it’s hard to think of a feature offered elsewhere that the average person – as opposed to the tech obsessive – really needs. NFC is not sufficiently widely used, wireless charging is nice but still requires a charger plugged into the wall and most people get along fine without removable storage. The iPhone 5 is a great smartphone made even better. It’s fast, lightweight and backed by the largest application store for any device. It’s also probably the most beautiful smartphone anyone has ever made.

More reviews below:

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AT&T refutes report that employees were instructed to sell Android and Windows devices over iPhone

Update: AT&T seemed none-too-pleased with the allegations and gave us the following statement:

The idea that we would steer any customer away from a particular device couldn’t be more farfetched.  Our reps do what it takes to align customer needs with the best device for them.  iPhone remains one of our most popular devices, which doesn’t happen by steering people away from it. Our reps are encouraged to try all devices so they are more knowledgeable on our industry-leading smartphone lineup.

We heard reports in the past that retail employees at other carriers were instructed by higher-ups to push Android and other alternative smartphone options to customers interested in the iPhone. However, BGR claimed today that AT&T’s slow 3 percent growth of iPhone activations in the second quarter was likely the result of a similar strategy. Although iPhone activations made up roughly 73 percent of smartphones in AT&T’s Q2 report, the initiative has apparently been confirmed by three independent sources:

Regional retail sales managers at AT&T have been instructing store managers to pump the brakes on Apple’s iPhone. Instructions handed down from corporate state that customers seeking smartphones at AT&T retail stores should be steered away from Apple’s (AAPL) iPhone and towards Android phones or Windows Phone handsets like the Nokia Lumia 900 instead. BGR has confirmed the directive with three independent sources

The report also claimed that one source indicated iPhone sales dropped from 80 percent to 50- to 60- percent of smartphone sales, at least in one region, since the initiative began. BGR also claimed retail staffs at AT&T in some regions are forced to choose an Android or Windows device over the iPhone for their company phone. We reached to AT&T for a comment and will update this post shortly when we hear back.

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