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Gates tearful over Ballmer's exit

20 November 2013, 10:20 Sapa

San Francisco - Outgoing Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer gave an optimistic outlook for the company on Tuesday at his last shareholder's meeting.

But Microsoft co-founder and chairperson Bill Gates could barely restrain the tears as he addressed Ballmer's impending retirement.

Ballmer, 57, has been on board with Microsoft since its early days, having joined the company in 1980.

Gates, who is part of the search committee to identify Ballmer's replacement, gave no hints about who might take over the helm of the giant PC software company, which is threatened by the rise of smartphones and tablet computers.

"We're pleased with the progress," Gates said in the webcast meeting. Among the candidates rumoured to be in line for one of the top jobs in the business world are Ford Motors president and CEO Alan Mulally; Satya Nadella, executive vice president of Microsoft's Cloud and Enterprise Division; Kevin Turner, the company's chief operating officer; and Stephen Elop, Nokia CEO and former division president at Microsoft.

Ballmer said he is leaving the company in good condition for his successor, despite widespread criticism of Microsoft's failure to anticipate the smartphone and tablet revolutions which have played havoc with its reliance on the PC market.

Ballmer touted his recent reorganisation of the company into a more cohesive unit, and its emphasis on integrated devices and services as a driver of future growth.

He said the buyout of Nokia's handset business, approved earlier in the day by Nokia's shareholders, will further improve the fortunes of the company's Windows smartphones, which saw sales grow by 156% in the most recent quarter, according to a recent report by research firm IDC.

"We have a big upside opportunity in devices," Ballmer said.

Ballmer told shareholders that Microsoft would be leading the technology sector in ten years with products that make today's technology look primitive.

"I'm optimistic. I treasure my Microsoft stock," Ballmer said. "I'm confident we have the right strategy in place."



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