Nerval's Lobster writes: 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.