Sure, Microsoft (MSFT) CEO Steve Ballmer made some big blunders in recent years -- forcing his retirement from the company sometime within the next 12 months. But Ballmer also doesn't get enough credit for the things he did right at the software giant. Here are five big bets or strategic moves that deserve some applause -- no joke -- amid Ballmer's pending exit...

1. Office 365 for Businesses: The cloud suite got off to a slow start with channel partners, many of whom were not impressed with the partner program. But for end customers, Office 365 has been a high-value suite of cloud services. Exchange, SharePoint, Lync -- all hosted and managed by Microsoft. 

2. Windows Azure: Other than Azure, what existing public cloud service can really give Amazon Web Services a run for its money over the long haul?

3. Xbox Live: It may be the best cloud service Microsoft has ever built, at least according to The VAR Guy's kids.

4. The Surface Bet: Ballmer showed big-time guts launching Surface Pro and RT. Surface was an awesome concept in a changing world. Too bad Ballmer and Microsoft dropped the ball in one other key area: Surface execution.

5. Windows Server 2012 and Hyper-V: They have been true hits with customers and partners...

So where did Ballmer miss his target? More on that soon...