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Ballroom for Ballmer at Microsoft Farewell

TMCnet Feature

October 02, 2013

Ballroom for Ballmer at Microsoft Farewell

By Drew Hendricks

Microsoft's head honcho Steve Ballmer (News - Alert) attended a teary-eyed farewell after announcing that he'd be stepping down within the coming year. A veteran at the company for more than 33 years, Ballmer opted for an unorthodox send-off in lieu of the heartfelt toasts and somber atmosphere typical of such announcements… though there were plenty of those, too.

Instead, he danced to "Wanna Be Startin' Something" by Michael Jackson, and claimed that Microsoft (News - Alert) would change the world again in the future, with or without him, because he believes in the company. More than 13,000 employees attended the annual event open to the entire company.

So far, Microsoft has not announced who the new chief executive will be, but one thing is certain: It's going to be tough for anyone to fill Ballmer's shoes. He's not just leaving Microsoft – he's leaving the company during a particularly vulnerable time.

The corporation has fallen behind in the mobile industry. But after more than three decades in the lead, it's time for some fresh blood and some new perspectives.

A legacy left behind

Among the words that scores of people have used to describe Ballmer are "enthusiastic" and "vigorous." He was famous for presentations which weren't just innovative, but also very entertaining.

He was proud of the company he called home, and openly admitted his love for Microsoft time and again. Ballmer's farewell message was posted on the company's social media platforms, and it certainly didn't look like any retirement party seen before.

In fact, it looked more like a festival or concert held at Seattle's Key Arena, which can host 17,000 people – although there appeared to be many more in attendance. A line queued outside with thousands of people on hand to watch their leader set sail to new horizons.

The lines were "insane," said the attendees, and one project manager – Charles Naut – described the event as "very moving." Ballmer didn't settle for only MJ, though. He walked off the stage to Dirty Dancing's "Time of My Life."

A heartfelt farewell

It was evident just how much Ballmer has invested in Microsoft over the years. He openly cried throughout the event, barely making it through his speech.

"We have unbelievable potential in front of us, we have an unbelievable destiny," he said. "Only our company and a handful of others are poised to write the future," he added, alluding to the competition that has taken Microsoft by storm, especially in the mobile department.

There were some digs along the way. Ballmer called Amazon cheap and Apple (News - Alert) fashionable.

And Google? Ballmer says that company is all about knowing more, while Microsoft does all the "doing." However, he seemed to think that the tech giants have nothing to worry about when it comes to smaller competition such as small businesses and startups on the horizon, and that might be a mistake that three decades in the same company can lead to.

The perfect fit

There was, of course, a time when companies like Microsoft were nothing but tiny startups. Is it Ballmer's error to assume that a newbie company that isn't a household name can't offer stiff competition? There are many reputable companies on the horizon, and not taking your competition seriously could cost certain firms dearly in the future.

For Ballmer, however, in a few months that's not going to be his concern. With retirement around the corner, he's more than earned his right to kick back, relax, and reflect on the outfit he helped turn into one of the most powerful technology companies in the world.

Potential competition from today's startups is something for the next CEO to deal with.

Edited by Alisen Downey

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