Microsoft CEO Ballmer's 2018 retirement plans have it all backwards

Today's 11th anniversary of Steve Ballmer becoming Microsoft's CEO has set off a round of speculation that his tenure will be cut short against his wishes, well before his stated retirement date of 2018. Why did Ballmer pick 2018 as the year to retire? It sounds as if it's so he can spend less time with his family.

The speculation comes not just because of Ballmer's anniversary, but because several days ago, he asked for the resignation of Bob Muglia, the president of the company's server and tools business, who by all accounts had done a stellar job at the company.

Mary Jo Foley on ZDNet started the ball rolling in her blog when she wrote:

Eleven years ago today, January 13, 2000, Steve Ballmer was appointed CEO of Microsoft.

Increasingly, many, including me, are wondering how many more years he'll continue in that role.

She later concluded:

I am not expecting Microsoft's board to hand Ballmer his walking papers any time soon. But I’m wondering already if the Board will have more strenuous questions for SteveB ---and maybe more bonus cuts --- for Ballmer this year when evaluation time comes around, if not before.

Over at the Financial Times, Richard Waters reports:

Two people who have talked to Microsoft directors recently tell us that they have heard some expressions of misgiving about Mr Ballmer's leadership, and suggest that he is coming under greater pressure to raise the company's game.

Todd Bishop, at TechFlash, has a great roundup of these and other comments.

For me, though, here's the most intriguing part of Bishop's blog:

For the record, Ballmer has said he doesn't plan to retire until 2018, when his youngest child goes to college.

Usually, when a CEO or politician retires, they say they're doing it so they can spend more time with their family. Given Ballmer's plans, though, he'll be retiring at a time when he'll be spending less time with his family, not more, because his children will all have left home.

I'm not exactly sure what to make of that. But if I were a betting man, I'd bet that Ballmer will be gone before 2018, unless he manages to fix Microsoft's problems related to mobile, search, and the Internet.

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