Credit: Reuters/Robert Galbraith
Today in Redmond the skies are a Windows 95 blue. Somewhere, a midlevel marketing executive is locked inside a bathroom stall weeping quiet tears of joy, and a Herman Miller Aeron chair is tumbling end over end in its inevitable descent to earth.
That's because today Steve Ballmer announced he was stepping down as CEO of Microsoft, some time in the next 12 months.
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Roughly a year from today, the Mad Ballmer, the Steve Without Reprieve, the Man Who Would Be King if Only He Were Willing to Accept a Demotion, will be just another gainfully unemployed billionaire.
The reaction on Wall Street was ebullient. Microsoft's share price spiked 8 percent in just a few hours. That's got to leave a mark.
Like many others, I have pinned the blame for Microsoft's many failings on the man at the top. True, he did what a CEO is supposed to do: make money by the truckload. Microsoft is a cash colossus. But its empire is built on yesterday's technology, and everyone knows it. That's a big reason why its share price, just a hair under $60 when Ballmer took the reins from Gates, is barely more than half that now. And it's probably why Ballmer decided to jump before he was pushed.
I'm not really sure why this news makes me so giddy. Ballmer has been, after all, a big fat target for yours truly over the years. From the "developers developers developers" monkey dance to the chair-throwing incident to the innumerable palm-meets-forehead utterances emanating from his lips -- I mean, just the tongue alone -- he's been comic gold for more than a decade. There is no CEO who can touch him for pure personality. Whoever replaces him is likely to be a boring technocrat who says the right things in as dull a fashion as possible.
The game is afoot
To forestall that, I'd like to make a few suggestions to Microsoft's board as to who should replace Ballmer.
Elon Musk. Sure, he's got a few things on his plate: running Tesla, pioneering commercial space flight, engineering a 700-mph rail system between San Francisco and Los Angeles. But what does it really take to run Microsoft, anyway? He can just pencil it into his calendar between fixing our mass transit mess and flying to the moon.