Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer will leave the company sometime over the next year.

The announcement came early this morning, and included a quote from Ballmer that, at least in some part, answers why he’s leaving now.

“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 organization and we have an amazing Senior Leadership Team. My original thoughts on timing would have had my retirement happen in the middle of our company’s transformation to a devices and services company. We need a CEO who will be here longer term for this new direction.”

While it’s likely that his serious bets on turning Microsoft into a devices and services company with Windows 8 and the Surface family of tablets will define his tenure, Ballmer is also responsible for a sort of renaissance in the company’s enterprise and business software units.

Still, it is curious that Microsoft would choose to make this announcement now, with Windows 8 not even a year old, it’ll likely be seen by most industry watchers as a sign that Microsoft’s Board of Directors — which includes Ballmer’s predecessor Bill Gates — was unhappy with his performance.

However that could be a stretch. Ballmer’s Microsoft is a more agile company than the Microsoft Gates left him. The company now makes a bigger share of it’s earnings from selling things that aren’t made in the Windows Division.

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