Steve Ballmer, the former CEO of Microsoft (pictured), stepped down from the company’s board, leaving his replacement Satya Nadella to wrestle with the company’s transition to a more mobile and cloud-focused strategy.
In a letter to Nadella explaining his decision to step down from the board, Ballmer said “there are challenges ahead but the opportunities are even larger”, and that no other company has “the mix of software skills, cloud skills, and hardware skills we have assembled”.
He added that in order to be successful in the mobile-first, cloud-first world (as Nadella calls it), the company needs to monetise through enterprise subscriptions, hardware gross margins, and advertising revenue.
Ballmer said new commitments led to his departure from the board. He recently secured ownership of the Los Angeles Clippers basketball franchise and also plans to teach and make a “civic contribution” as part of his post-Microsoft activity.
The move comes six months after Ballmer stepped down as Microsoft CEO and the former company chief expressed confidence that current management is capable of making the changes needed.
Ballmer remains the biggest individual shareholder in the company and said he plans to remain in that position for the foreseeable future. “I bleed Microsoft — have for 34 years and I always will,” he concluded.
Nadella said Ballmer’s leadership created “an incredible foundation” that the company can build on to thrive in the mobile-first, cloud-first world. The loss of Ballmer’s influence at board level should give Nadella more scope to put his stamp on the company.
On assuming the role in February, Nadella put mobile firmly at the top of his agenda as the company struggled to keep pace with rivals Apple and Google. A major element in this was the acquisition of Nokia’s Devices and Services unit in April, a deal put in place by Ballmer.
Microsoft unveiled a raft of developer tools with its Windows Phone 8.1 update in April and announced plans to unify its Windows platform by enabling developers to build ‘universal apps’ that work across all devices that run on the OS.
However, when announcing the company’s second quarter results in July, Nadella revealed plans to shed 18,000 staff over the next year, 12,500 of which were related to the former Nokia business.
The company also announced it would end the development of the Android-based Nokia X platform, with “select Nokia X product designs to become Lumia products running Windows”.
Nokia X, which was only launched at Mobile World Congress in February, was aimed at driving consumers to use Microsoft and Nokia services on low-end devices before moving to the Windows Phone-powered Lumia line.