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  (Source: Reuters)
Amid low share prices, Ballmer received a chilly reception from some shareholders at their annual meeting

At Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT) annual shareholder Wednesday, the company's at-times boisterous Chief Executive Steven "Steve" Ballmer brought in Microsoft's "big guns" -- former Microsoft CEO, co-founder, and tech icon Bill Gates and Chief Financial Officer Peter Klein.  But at the meeting of 450 shareholders, Mr. Ballmer did not need to enlist the help of his fellow Microsoft elite, who remained silent even as the meeting turned chilly, according to Reuters reporters in attendance.

Amid tough questions from the audience, Mr. Ballmer was candid in his assessment that Microsoft was a late-comer to the tablet game, but he told the audience in a fiery defense that he saw "nothing but a sea of upside" for Windows 8 tablets.  He comments, "We're innovating on the seam between software and hardware.  Maybe we should have done that earlier.  [But] I feel pretty good about our [current] level of innovation."

Indeed, Microsoft has some defenders in odd places.  Stephen "Steve" Wozniak, better known as the "Woz", was once a ferocious critic of Microsoft and evangelist for Apple, Inc. (AAPL), the company he co-founded.  But today he said in a recent TechCrunch interview that he fears for Apple because Microsoft has become more innovative.

Steve Ballmer
Steve Ballmer is overwhelmed with anticipation regarding his company's
prospects in the tablet market. [Image Source: Getty Images]

Others might disagree.

While Mr. Ballmer pointed optimistically to Windows Phone sales quadrupling on a year-to-year basis, the platform is still estimated to only own 2 to 4 percent of the global market, well behind Apple and market leader Google Inc. (GOOG).  While Microsoft dreams of "pulling a Google" and rising to the top of the stack, it currently is resigned to vying with embattled Research in Motion, Ltd. (TSE:RIM) for the third-place spot.

But when it came to shareholder criticism, the harshest questions came not about Microsoft's products, but rather why its share price was so low.  Indeed, Microsoft shares trade at an order of magnitude lower than their Google and Apple counterparts.  (To be fair Microsoft has significantly approximately 9 times as many shares as Apple, and 25 times as many as Google).  Apple recently passed Microsoft in market capitalization and today has a total stock value that is more than twice that of Microsoft's.

Steve Ballmer dodged the share value question, remarking, "I understand your comment... [but Microsoft has] done a phenomenal job of driving product volumes... The stock market's kind of a funny thing."

Funny indeed, but the shareholders might have been less than amused.  Mr. Ballmer did placate the critics slightly by pointing to Microsoft's $10B USD profit sharing effort which includes share buybacks and quarterly dividends.

Currently, Microsoft shares are trading at around their levels from a decade ago, having risen roughly 18 percent in 2012.  In other words, despite the criticism, shareholders should be pleased to an extent that Microsoft outperformed the Standard & Poor's 500 average of an anemic 3 percent in gains.

Source: Reuters



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RE: shortsighted shareholders maybe...
By Roffles on 11/29/2012 8:06:22 PM , Rating: 2
It seems like your opinion may be slanted more towards a consumerism perspective and mine slanted towards a professional/prosumer perspective so we would have to agree to disagree.

But one thing for sure is that I picture a not-so-distant future where I may have a Surface Pro propped up on my living room table, networked to my Xbox 720 and perhaps a Winphone device would/could offer some extra capabilities beyond SmartGlass that would interface with my Surface and Xbox in a way that compels me to switch over. So I don't see a failed gateway here but more of a potential gateway. Only the future would tell -- but it seems like this is MS's end goal.

And while we have a magnifying glass on Microsoft, let us not forget about the Nexus4 with it's unacceptably low storage space, non-removable battery, non-expandable storage and lack of LTE. And the new $249 Chromebook which is essentially useless and doesn't interface intelligently in any good way with other devices in the Android ecosystem. What about the Google TV or that Nexus Q they introduced? It seems to me that it's companies like Samsung, Motorola and HTC who make great devices that keep Android's superior operating system relevant. If these companies decided to drop Android, Google couldn't stay afloat with their choice of compromised hardware.

And Apple? They've done nothing innovative as of late. I almost laughed when they introduced the new iMac all-in-ones....what with the Win8 touchscreen all-in-ones on the horizon (specially the DELL XPS one 27 that I'm currently interested in) , Apple products look outdated by comparison....proving that the Apple loyalists have more money than brains to pay for alluring boutique hardware with outdated functionality.


By bupkus on 11/29/2012 9:03:27 PM , Rating: 2
Don't be surprised but I agree with you on each and every point. I think you may have been a little harsh with Google but you were accurate.

My whole statement wasn't to praise Google or dis MS, although I wish I hadn't bought this latest Action Pack Subscription, but I digress.
Instead, I was just focusing on how timing has not served MS well. If Steve Ballmer made that call he's a little late to the party. It's like last call and he's leaving with the ugly girl.
Microsoft is facing a deeply committed customer base in both Apple and yes, even Android. If only this tablet had been released along with Ivy Bridge back in ... whenever. MS has a steep slope to climb. I don't think they'll really catch on until Haswell which will give the Surface a respectable battery life.


RE: shortsighted shareholders maybe...
By Nortel on 11/29/2012 9:40:11 PM , Rating: 3
Ok first off I completely agree that the Chromebook is a piece of garbage.

As for the Dell XPS one 27... well, it's a 27 inch iMac with touchscreen running Windows 8. That's the facts, no opinion there. What I can't see is an audience clamoring for a huge tablet anchored to a desk with typical desktop accessibility. Tablets are really good for light usage and desktops for heavy lifting. I absolutely cannot see apps coming out to take advantage of the huge resolution and people willing to retrograde from a portable tablet to a desktop.

If the desktop is meant to be taken as a literal desktop with touchscreen as an added bonus, then it's just a gimmick. HP tried a touchscren iMac like computer with Windows 7 and it bombed. Windows 8 may be very touchscreen oriented but I can't see it taking any market-share, especially with PC sales plummeting.


By nedsand on 12/4/2012 2:39:10 PM , Rating: 2
Desktops are still relevant, although less than they were before, they are still relevant. How can you call touchscreen technology a gimmick today? All good technologies were once gimmicky, take the mouse for example. TS technology has moved past gimmick stage and is or already has rushed past early adopter stage. This is going to be main stream or a standard in the not to distant future. I can imagine that within 10 years or less touchscreens will be installed in just about everything.


"If you can find a PS3 anywhere in North America that's been on shelves for more than five minutes, I'll give you 1,200 bucks for it." -- SCEA President Jack Tretton














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