Microsoft CEO to retire

Microsoft Corp chief executive officer Steve Ballmer will retire within the next 12 months after more than a decade leading the world's largest software maker.

Mr Ballmer, 57, will continue to lead the company during the transition, Microsoft said in a statement released early Friday.

"There is never a perfect time for this type of transition, but now is the right time," Mr Ballmer said in a statement.

"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."

Mr Ballmer took over as CEO in 2000 when co-founder Bill Gates stepped down from day-to-day operations at the company. At the time, Microsoft was the undisputed tech sector leader, and the world's largest company in market value.

But in recent years, Microsoft has struggled as consumers began to transition from desktop and laptop PCs to mobile devices.

While its Windows software is used on the vast majority of personal computers, Microsoft has had little impact in the fast-growing segments of tablets and smartphones.

Microsoft shares jumped 7.2% after the stock market opened on Friday morning as the news broke.

The company said its board had appointed a special committee to direct the process of appointing a new CEO.

The committee is chaired by John Thompson, the board's lead independent director, and includes Mr Gates, as well as other board members Chuck Noski and Steve Luczo.

It will consider both external and internal candidates and is working with the executive recruiting firm Heidrick & Struggles International, according to the company.

Mr Ballmer met Bill Gates in 1973 while they were living down a dormitory hall from each other at Harvard University.

He joined Microsoft in 1980 to bring some business discipline and salesmanship to a company that had just landed a contract to supply an operating system for a personal computer that IBM would release in 1981.

A zealous executive prone to arm-waving and shouting, Mr Ballmer did the job so well that he would become Mr Gates' sounding board and succeed him as CEO in 2000.

Though investors cheered the news on Friday, it could be a "tough 12 months" for the company, said BGC Financial analyst Colin Gillis.

He said that the obvious successor, former Windows division head Steven Sinofsky, left the company shortly after the launch of Windows 8 last year.

Related search: Microsoft, Steve Ballmer, Bill Gates

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Writer: Bloomberg, AFP and AP