Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer is set to stand down within the next 12 months, the vendor has announced this afternoon.
He will stay on for up to a year while a special committee – led by its independent director John Thompson and chairman Bill Gates – searches for his replacement.
"There is never a perfect time for this type of transition, but now is the right time," Ballmer said. "We have embarked on a new strategy with a new organisation and we have an amazing senior leadership team.
In a leaving note sent to staff, he added: "This is an emotional and difficult thing for me to do. I take this step in the best interests of the company I love; it is the thing outside of my family and closest friends that matters to me most.
"Microsoft has all its best days ahead. Know you are part of the best team in the industry and have the right technology assets. We cannot and will not miss a beat in these transitions."
Ballmer took on the role of chief executive in 2000 and Microsoft claims under his leadership, the firm has more than tripled its revenue and doubled profits.
Bill Gates, Ballmer's predecessor, said he will work closely with members of the board to appoint a new chief executive and claimed the firm was fortunate that Ballmer was continuing in his role until a successor was found.
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