"It's a complex role to fill," Gates said, adding that both he and his lifelong friend and business associate Ballmer "share a commitment" to securing the right CEO to lead the company, choking up momentarily.
It had to be a bittersweet moment for one of the world's legendary business leaders. He and Ballmer worked hand-in-hand through the decades to form one of the most successful one-two pairs in American business history.
However, the company is now at a crossroads where there's new urgency to reshape Microsoft amidst a technology landscape where the shift to mobility presents myriad new challenges to the company's Windows-centric business strategy. Ballmer, who announced in August that he would step down sometime within the next 12 months, recently said bringing in a new leader would be the best way to "accelerate change" at Microsoft.
All of Microsoft's directors, Ballmer among them, won reelection Tuesday. Separately, Nokia shareholders voted overwhelmingly to sell off its devices and services business to Microsoft.