The news that Microsoft CEO will be retiring within the next 12 months caught pretty much everyone with surprise, but it appears that some people inside the company were already in on the plans.

If anything, Redmond actually started planning for Ballmer’s departure around three or four years back, meaning the news was not really a shock for some Microsoft employees.

The software titan is actually in the process of a companywide reorganization, the result of which is that several high-profile executives have either retired or parted ways in the past few months — not just US based executives, but officials in other countries around the world too.

Famed Microsoft watcher Mary Jo Foley just now spoke with Ballmer along with several Microsoft representatives. And the company told her that the CEO succession plan was, as a matter of fact, put into place three of four years ago.

In a special report on today, Foley revealed what she learned from the Redmond campus, saying that the company has already started interviewing candidates for the role of CEO — both from within and from outside Microsoft.

This is as high-profile a job as any in the (technology) world, after all.

Nevertheless, the company seems to be rather active when it comes to making a selection of a leader after Ballmer departs, who Foley noted had a touch of sadness after announcing his retirement plans to the public earlier in the day.

In any case, this promises to be the change of an era, and fingers crossed we hear more all there is to on this in future media interviews and reports.

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