Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, known as much for his zany personality as his business discipline, said Friday he will retire in the next year.
He will leave a legacy of mixed results and a monumental challenge for his yet-to-be-named successor.
After helping founder Bill Gates transform Microsoft from a tiny startup into the world's most valuable company, Ballmer took over for Gates in early 2000.
The new millennium marked a dark period for Microsoft. As smartphones and tablet computers began to eclipse personal computers, detractors say Ballmer didn't take early threats from Apple and Google seriously enough. Ballmer consistently pooh-poohed Google as a one-trick company, and in 2007 declared: "No chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share."
But Google quickly made important inroads in Internet video, online maps, email and mobile computing and contributed to the damage that Apple's iPhone and iPad have done to Microsoft and its partners in the PC market.
As Microsoft Corp.'s stature diminished, its market value followed. When Ballmer took the helm in January 2000, the company was worth more than $601 billion. Today, its value is less than half that amount, at nearly $270 billion.
Microsoft said yesterday that it's forming a search committee, which will include Gates. Ballmer will stay on until a replacement is found.
After the news broke Friday, Microsoft's stock shot up as much as 9 percent. It closed at $34.75, up more than 7 percent. -- AP