Microsoft CEO Ballmer Roars at Shareholder Criticism, Defends Innovation Record
November 29, 2012 3:06 PM
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Amid low share prices, Ballmer received a chilly reception from some shareholders at their annual meeting
At Microsoft Corp.'s (
) 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,
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. (
), the company he co-founded. But today he said in a recent
he fears for Apple
because Microsoft has become more innovative.
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. (
). 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. (
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.
This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled
11/29/2012 10:16:51 PM
>...and if you want to bolster the 5:1 difference in marketshare based
>on low end hardware sold to the poor and in third-world countries,
>then be my guest.
Governor Romney? Is that you?
11/29/2012 11:48:18 PM
Very funny. :)
It is the truth though, the type of Android hardware sold through companies like Boost Mobile or in poorer countries isn't really used for what is "typical" smartphone usage.
It boosts marketshare numbers to a huge degree, certainly, but it also gives a false idea that all of those Android devices sold are in the same class as the GS3 or the Note 2. Those higher end devices sell only a fraction of the cheap/free Android hardware that no-contract companies give away, which is why Android makes up a much smaller percentage of internet traffic and app usage than iOS. If the ratio of devices on the Android side was all on the high end, like it is with Apple, then it would absolutely dominate those figures, no question.
"Mac OS X is like living in a farmhouse in the country with no locks, and Windows is living in a house with bars on the windows in the bad part of town." -- Charlie Miller
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