Ballmer 2.0: We can rebuild him

Did Ballmer jump? Or was he pushed? Regardless, Cringely the career counselor is happy to point Microsoft's departing leader toward his next gig

The fallout from the Ballmer bombshell continues to rain down across the Web, as we all wrap our heads around Friday's announcement that Stevarino's stepping down from Microsoft.

Over at AllThingsD, Kara Swisher harangued her sources inside Redmond -- apparently she has spies living in the crawl spaces there as well as at Yahoo -- to discover that maybe Ballmer was pushed after all.

While the decision to go seems to have technically been Ballmer's, interviews with dozens of people inside and outside the company, including many close to the situation, indicate that he had not aimed to leave this soon and especially after the recent restructuring of the company that he had intensely planned.

Instead, sources said Ballmer's timeline had been moved up drastically -- first by him and then the nine-member board, including his longtime partner and Microsoft co-founder and chairman Bill Gates -- after all agreed that it was best if he left sooner than later.

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Swisher all but confirms that Chairman Bill Gates gave the order to give Ballmer two behind the ear. It's like what they say about the Mafia: When it's your time to get whacked, they'll send your best friend to do it.

Ballmer speaks

InfoWorld's own El Jefe Eric Knorr offers tea and sympathy for the departing CEO, noting that even if Ballmer had managed to do everything perfectly Microsoft still might have been steamrolled by the explosion of low-cost cloud services and the collapse of a business model built on guaranteed hardware obsolescence. Here, he totally nails it:

If you ask me, the new CEO needs to hire Microsoft's version of Apple's Jonathan Ive -- someone who designs products from the user experience in, rather than from the engineering specs out -- and give that person real power. On top of everything else, the new CEO will need to transform Microsoft from an engineering-driven company to a design-driven company.

And I'm not just saying that because he signs my paychecks. (Thanks, EK.)

ZDnet's Mary Jo Foley reports that after 20 years of asking, Microsoft finally granted her an interview with the Mad Ballmer (I guess he finally had some free time on his schedule). It's mostly very tepid exit interview stuff -- his proudest moment (witnessing the birth of the PC revolution) his biggest regret (midwifing the birth of Vista) -- though there is this beauty of a response to a question about Q1 2014 earnings:

The timing here is all (the fact that) these things come in waves. We have kicked off, the leadership team and I have kicked off a new wave. And in looking at that and saying to myself, can I last deep enough into this -- can I last isn't the right way to say it -- do my personal plans sort of fit with me lasting far enough that I'm not leaving in now mid-wave, kickoff's fine but not leaving mid-wave, the timing is all about that. I mean, summer is the kind of time we would do -- this would happen anyway, because summer is when we write our personnel reviews, summer is when we sort of do our long term contemplation. So that's all been consistent, if you will. So there's nothing short term about the selection of timing, and I just refuse to even say anything that relates to your actual question.

I'm really gonna miss this guy.

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