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Ballmer: Microsoft's best days are still ahead

In his final shareholder letter, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer expresses enthusiasm for the company's future and reiterates its focus on being a "devices and services" business.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer with his company's Surface tablet. Josh Lowensohn/CNET

Steve Ballmer has penned his final shareholder letter as CEO of Microsoft. With a bittersweet air, Ballmer writes about the company's success over the past year and says that it's just the beginning.

"With the decisions we've made this year, the strategy we've put in place, the organization we've designed, the world-class talent we have, and the devices and services we are creating, we are well-positioned to deliver growth and world-changing technology long into the future," he wrote in the letter, which Microsoft released Monday.

Giving a nod to Microsoft taking a different direction in 2013 -- shifting from being just a software company to also being a hardware business -- Ballmer said the company's revenue grew by 6 percent to $77.8 billion and that it returned $12.3 billion to shareholders via dividends and stock repurchases. Ballmer also added that Microsoft's acquisition of Nokia's Devices and Services business was a "signature event" in the company's transformation.

"We are still in the early days of our transformation, yet we made strong progress in the past year launching devices and services that people love and businesses need," Ballmer wrote. "We brought Windows 8 to the world; we brought consistent user experiences to PCs, tablets, phones and Xbox; and we made important advancements to Windows Server, Windows Azure, Microsoft Dynamics and Office 365."

Ballmer announced in August that he would be stepping down as CEO within the next 12 months -- once a replacement is found who will carry out Microsoft's new vision of offering devices and services. Since his announcement, he has given interviews and talks about his pride in Microsoft and how it's handled change and transition.

"We have always believed that technology will unleash human potential and that is why I have come to work every day with a heart full of passion for more than 30 years," Ballmer wrote in the shareholder letter. "Working at Microsoft has been a thrilling experience -- we've changed the world and delivered record-setting success -- and I know our best days are still ahead."