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Meanwhile Ballmer looks to pump shareholders up with a letter emphasizing Microsoft's success

When a more mature Steve Jobs came back to Apple, Inc. (AAPL), he revitalized the company he co-founded as a rebellious youth.  Millions of iPods, iPhones, and iPhones later, Apple is the world's most valuable company in terms of market cap.  Meanwhile, Apple's perennial rival Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) is struggle not for want of user, but for a faltering brand image.  Some say that Bill Gates -- the man who founded Microsoft and drove it to its initial success -- should return.

I. Bill Gates: No Comeback for me

But at his keynote at the Abu Dhabi Media Summit 2012 -- a leadership conference -- Bill Gates all but ruled out a return, saying his focus was on his philanthropic work, and it would remain that way.  He said:

Steve Jobs did a phenomenal piece of work. Apple, most people would have expected, were on their way going out of business. He had run Apple since it was a tiny company and then he came back in and made incredibly valuable. It’s a phenomenal business story and I thought Walter Isaacson did a good job catching that in the book. Steve and I were friends, competitors – we were a lot of different things. It was amazing what he did.

I’m now committed full time to my foundation work and I give about 15% of my time as Chairman of Microsoft. Microsoft is moving ahead with Windows 8 that combines the best of tablet with PC. This month the very first hardware based on that idea including Microsoft’s own Surface will ship. So there’s a lot of exciting stuff ahead in software and I didn’t retire from Microsoft because I thought things were getting boring. In fact a lot of best ideas- the vision of artificial intelligence and robots are still ahead but i did decide the philanthropic world was where my contribution would be more unique and so thats what I’ll work on full time for the rest of my life.

Bill Gates
Bill Gates says "no" to a Microsoft comeback. [Image Source: Flickr/Bill Gates]

Some people will be disappointed that Mr. Gates is resisting a comeback.

II. Steve Ballmer: Microsoft is Strong

But Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer is convinced no comeback is necessary.  He insists that the image that Microsoft lacks creativity is badly out of date.  In a letter to shareholders, he brags that 1.3 billion people worldwide use Windows and that there are 8 million active Windows app developers.

The boisterous chief executive is bullish on Windows 8 tablets and Windows Phone 8, bringing a unified Windows experience across mobile and traditional computing devices.  

Microsoft has skeptics aplenty, particularly when it comes to Windows 8.  But as Mr. Ballmer puts it:

For fiscal year 2012, revenue grew to a record $73.7 billion. We also maintained strong cost discipline resulting in cash flow from operations of $31.6 billion, an increase of 17 percent from the prior year. In addition, we returned $10.7 billion to shareholders through stock buybacks and dividends.

In other words financially Microsoft shows little sign of being a "dying" brand as some opinion pieces have claims.

Windows 8 is a huge risk.  But Steve Ballmer is convinced it will pay off, even as Bill Gates watches -- permanently -- from the sidelines.

Sources: T-Break, Microsoft

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RE: Fire Balmer
By Mitch101 on 10/10/2012 5:15:40 PM , Rating: 2
It shows no real decline either.

The Majority of Microsoft is not consumer products like Apple and even Google is. Its with Server products like Server 2012, SQL 2012, Exchange 2013, Sharepoint 2013. Most people only really know of Windows and Office and No growth well a lot of people will upgrade/replace Windows with Windows newer versions on both the corporate and consumer world. When your 99% of the market some will go get an Apple and upgrades arent real growth so Microsoft needs to venture into new areas for real growth to occur.

And while people say what have you done lately?

How about being a major contentder in the gaming console market is one. I would dare say the Kinect was a way of winning the console market a second time around using the same console as it was one of the fastest selling products of all time. No disrespect to the PS3 but a lot of people I know are still miffed over having thier info lost by Sony.

Microsoft Sharepoint is also one of the fastest growing Microsoft business products of all time but how many consumers even know what it is?

Office 365 will gain ground it makes sense there are few areas where it needs improvement but its starting to gain traction.

What Microsoft didnt capitalize on was the consumer product market but thats about to change and this doesnt happen overnight and its not cheap to do either.

Microsoft Sync only if Ford can keep from screwing that up with Nuance and overcomplicating it.

Bing is gaining slightly on Google but not going to overtake it anytime soon. This is where Google can only lose ground.

Windows Phone will continue to gain ground its a great product weather you agree or not it has a high satisfaction rating and starting to pick up.

Windows Surface Tablets are coming and hopefully we will see some low prices on the RT versions of the product. Dont be surprised to see a Barnes and Noble $200.00 Windows version soon.

Microsoft Smartglass will win some people over as well in the entertainment market and area where the Apple TV and Google TV cant make traction. I think the X-Box 360 already won this war and there is a ton more coming here for Microsoft. That Gold membership is just that Microsoft Gold.

If Microsoft starts to win in the Tablet and Phone Market how much will that effect a company who's bottom line is a good 20% or more of thier revenue stream? Meanwhile its one product of the hundreds Microsoft produces.

Its almost like Netscape who said they were so Big Microsoft cant even compete eith them and where are they now?

RE: Fire Balmer
By Reclaimer77 on 10/10/2012 6:11:35 PM , Rating: 2
How about being a major contentder in the gaming console market is one.

Hmmm I thought it was Bill Gates who envisioned that and dumped billions of dollars into the Xbox and Xbox Live project while everyone was doubting him?

How about you have the courage to bring up that the decisions which lead to the Xbox 350 having a 50%+ failure rate happened under Balmer?

Bing is gaining slightly on Google but not going to overtake it anytime soon.

??? The only thing Bing has done is cost MS over a BILLION a year in losses, every year. Are you serious?

RE: Fire Balmer
By Mitch101 on 10/10/2012 10:05:40 PM , Rating: 2
The cost of admission on them is high if you want to compete. You cant limp in and expect to compete against and established product line or service. For anyone to compete in the search engine industry you have to go big or go home. Bing is really good when I remember to use it but Im so programmed to type google its hard to switch out. But I much prefer to use bing for airflight info and image searches.

I believe I read Google makes 3 Billion a month from search advertising so if Microsoft spends a Billion to grab 5% away from Google that translates to 1.8 Billion in search revenue for Microsoft. Thats a lot of incentive to get it right but your not going to do it spending a few thousand and limping in.

You cant tell me 36 Billion a year on search when you have tons of cash reserves your not going to take a stab at it especially when you have a good product.

Sure lets bring up the 360 RROD. Microsoft didnt back away from thier mistake they took responsibility and for that I have brand loyalty even though Im still on my first 360. Im sure some of those were victims of poor air flow placement but Microsoft put in a replacement program and stood by thier users. Sure they could have made more money if they didnt have a design issue but they didnt run from it. Ask those who got stuck with the similar issue from the NVIDIA chipsets that didnt get any coverage. There is a lot to be said about Brand Loyalty. Look at Sony sure the user base for linux was small but they didnt need to take it away and the same for backwards support. Im sure a lot of those people wont be trusting what Sony says. That might only be lets say a million people but thats a Million people telling others to buy the next X-Box instead because they were wronged by Sony. Who knows maybe more will defect to the next PS because of the RROD but maybe Microsoft saved them because they did make good on console replacement.

Every company can produce a dud the thing is Microsoft can afford to pee away a Billion. Eventually it pays off for them. Xbox 1 didnt sell compared to the PS2 but the 360 held its own.

Not all Android devices are winners ask most recently HTC's tablet and Apple has many duds in thier past too. Nobody is immune to it.

"A politician stumbles over himself... Then they pick it out. They edit it. He runs the clip, and then he makes a funny face, and the whole audience has a Pavlovian response." -- Joe Scarborough on John Stewart over Jim Cramer

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