Steve Ballmer's days at Microsoft are numbered. The board has until the end of the year to find a replacement, but he's already resigned to his fate that today's shareholder letter will be his last. In classic Ballmer style, the letter is all about what Microsoft is doing right while holding hope that the future will be even better.
Ballmer spent most of his final shareholder letter speaking on Microsoft's grand strategy going forward. After all, it was Ballmer that initiated the great restructuring of 2013 that will see Microsoft turn into a devices and services company. Ballmer says this is key to the continued success of the company.
Of course, a transition to a devices and services company is only as good as the devices and services on offer. Ballmer says he's confident that both Microsoft's devices (i.e. Xbox One, Windows Phone) and services (i.e. Windows 8.1, SkyDrive) will lead to even greater success for the company. Here's how he planned on doing it:
To increase innovation, capability, efficiency and speed we further sharpened our strategy, and in July 2013 we announced we are rallying behind a single strategy as One Microsoft. We declared that Microsoft’s focus going forward will be to create a family of devices and services for individuals and businesses that empower people around the globe at home, at work and on the go, for the activities they value most.
Over time, our focus on high-value activities will generate amazing innovation and new areas of growth. What is a high-value activity? Think of the experiences people have every day that are most important to them — from communicating with a family member and researching a term paper to having serious fun and expressing ideas. In a business setting, high-value activities include experiences such as conducting meetings with colleagues in multiple locations, gaining insight from massive amounts of data and information, and interacting with customers.
With Ballmer's departure, it will be up to his successor to decide if this is the path Microsoft needs to be on. After all, Microsoft's first responsibility is to make money, and there's not a lot of money for Microsoft in the consumer market outside of Xbox. That's why Ballmer says he wants Microsoft to focus on devices and enterprise services:
As we go to market, we will primarily monetize our high-value activities by leading with devices and enterprise services. In this model, our consumer services such as Bing and Skype will differentiate our devices and serve as an on-ramp to our enterprise services while generating some revenue from subscriptions and advertising. Enterprise services continue to be an area of great strength, growth and opportunity as businesses of all sizes look to Microsoft to help them move to the cloud, manage a growing number of devices, tap into big data and embrace new social capabilities.
After looking to the future, Ballmer recaps all the major events that have happened at Microsoft over the last few months, including the restructuring, the purchase of Nokia's Devices and Services business and a new segment-reporting framework. Ballmer says that all three of these events will help to drive long-term growth at Microsoft.
Even though Ballmer may be stepping down as CEO this year, he will still be a Microsoft shareholder. To that end, he says that he's incredibly optimistic about the future of the company and that he "treasures his Microsoft stock."[Image: msPartner/YouTube]