Ballmer also never truly understood the needs of the mobile consumer, until it was too late. Sadly, he also doesn't seem to understand why Windows 8 and Surface have been colossal failures. Consumers want ease of use, not added complications. Why is it that Office does not come standard with Surface? That Office needs to be purchased separately speaks to the disconnect that exists between Microsoft and consumers. If that weren't bad enough, while losing the consumer market, Ballmer began to lose the strong grip that Microsoft had in enterprise. Rivals like Oracle ( ORCL) and Salesforce.com ( CRM) have begun to make tremendous strides in the cloud and software as a service (SaaS) market. Essentially, not only has Microsoft failed to answer Apple and Google, but the company has not been able to effectively respond to these new threats. For Ballmer, it's been 13 years with a laundry list of failures. The sad part about all of this is that Steve Ballmer, by all accounts, is not only a decent guy, but also a wonderful ambassador for Microsoft. Unfortunately, though, those qualities are just not good enough, not at such a critical point in the company's history. Microsoft is in dire need of someone with a methodical sense and who isn't afraid to take some risks.
I'm sure names of plenty of candidates will surface and the search committee, which will be headed by independent director John Thomson and include Bill Gates, will have a tough decision to make. On more than one occasion, I've mentioned Scott Forstall, Apple's former Senior Vice President of iOS, as a suitable replacement. I believe Forstall will ignite Microsoft in a way that Ballmer never could.