Any number of executives could take Ballmer's place, including a few he unceremoniously kicked to the curb over the years. Whoever steps into that CEO role, however, faces a much greater challenge than if Ballmer had quietly resigned several years ago. Ballmer famously missed the boat on tablets and smartphones; Windows 8 isn't selling as well as Microsoft expected; and on Websites and blogs such as Mini-Microsoft (which had a brilliant posting about Ballmer's departure), employees complain bitterly about the company's much-maligned stack-ranking system, its layers of bureaucracy, and its inability to innovate. Had Ballmer left years ago, replaced by someone with the ability to more keenly anticipate markets, the company would probably be in much better shape to face its coming challenges. In its current form, Microsoft often feels like it's struggling in the wake of Amazon, Google, Apple, and Facebook.
Good riddance Stevo.
Oh? Practicing your hindsight?
Castigating someone for a supposedly-bad decision ALWAYS looks good in hindsight - that is simply due to hindsight ALWAYS being twenty-twenty. (Ask anyone that has ever been leader of a country - any country - no matter how they got there.) The issue, whether it's the leader of a company OR a country, is the basis OF the decision-making - whether good OR bad.
The big reason Ballmer has been getting whacked is because he actually dared to make risky decisions - even those that eventually worked out (such as the codebase change that resulted in the overlong overhang between XP and Vista) took longer to work out, but DID work out - that code change resulted in Windows 7/Windows Server 2008, and their successors. But we, as consumers, are getting less and less in favor of taking ANY sort of risk. Despite all the praise heaped on lately on Apple (and even Google) for taking less risk, what changes BOTH have made have been getting attacked. Being cowardly is not always the best strategy - in fact, it's seldom even a good strategy, even in business, let along geopolitics. (Otherwise, why is current Apple CEO Tim Cook getting his own share of whacking - from Apple investors - for his heavily risk-averse strategem at Apple?) Taking risks is part of the job description of a CEO - a CEO of a company is the person that executes the company's strategem. (While the company's chairperson is the representative of the most powerful shareholder, in most larger companies, the chairman is NOT also the CEO; remember, it was Bill Gates that split the two apart at Microsoft, and he didn't even make the CEO decision himself, though he DID recommend Ballmer.)
Hating the decision of the CEO of a company - any company - is one thing - but is it the decision itself that you hate, or the process that led to that decision? Ballmer is very much a prickly pear - that's not news, or at least it shouldn't be. However, all of those picks by other Neowinians to replace Ballmer - and especially Steven Elop at Nokia - have been at least as prickly as Ballmer at some point. While corporate CEOs have been more public - and especially since the breakup of the conglomerates started in the 1970s - they are still the executors of the overall corporate strategy - including being Honorable Hatchet Person when necessary. (That has been true of "good" and "bad" CEOs - including Ballmer, Elop, and the last three CEOs at HP - Meg Whitman (currently), Mark Hurd (her immediate predecessor, now at Oracle), and Carly Fiorina (who Hurd replaced). In fact, compare Mark Hurd directly to Carly Fiorina - which was the better CEO of HP?)
In fact, look at Jack Welch - the (in)famous former CEO of GE. He's infamous for laying off more folks than all the other CEOs over GE's entire history - put together. Yet Welch is also thought of - not just inside GE, but outside of GE - as the greatest CEO that GE has EVER had. (And considering that GE was founded by Thomas Edison, who was also GE's first CEO, that's a downright bold statement.) While a CEO of a large company is often the company's public face - blame Lee Iacocca - don't go thinking that they are necessarily going to be "nice". (In fact, Iacocca himself, historically, was pricklier in his corporate career than even Ballmer.)
I don't always agree with Ballmer's decisions - however, he's been right FAR more than he's been wrong.