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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: optimistic
By robinthakur on 11/30/2012 5:50:27 AM , Rating: 2
I disagree with most of your points which are not facts. Alot of them are simply not relevent to 99.9% of the market like the icons and the upscaled content. I own a Galaxy 3 international and an iPhone 5 and 9/10 I leave the house with the iPhone unless I need to use offline maps. The reason is very simple and not something you mention, funnily enough, which is quality and availability of decent apps.

Certainly the Android option would be credible, if the apps I want were available and were as performant and looked as good as on the iPhone. In terms of reasons behind that, you need only look at the way Apple's platform does not have the variety of hardware either Android or RIM and the fact that Apple constantly push the margins in terms of GPU with every release.

Also, Android's users simply don't spend enough at the Play store otherwise devs would go where the money was, assuming ease of development etc were the same. With such a large installed base of Android users worldwide they'd be crazy not to target it as the lead platform. There is a reason they aren't generally and it is fragmentation and lack of return on investment. Personally, I only usually install free apps on Android, because I've probably spent thousands on the App Store on iOS, and am not ready to give them up or indeed to purchase them again.

The fact that the build quality and look of the iPhone is miles ahead of any other phone helps its cause, but I would always use the better platform, regardless, assuming it is better in All important respects.

The OS on iPhones is still way smoother than even Jelly Bean and far more consistent and integrated. I find the music transfer (drag and drop eurgh!) and playback on Android for example sucks balls without PowerAmp and a lock screen replacement installed, and even then, you still cannot control volume on it using the remote headset. Since the platform is soooo flexible and customisable, why on earth hasn't somebody fixed this extreme usability fubar?

Which leaves Android's advantages from your list to me personally being that

-the OS looks nice in an open source kind of way though it still struggles to hold a constant frame rate
-there is NFC (though I have not used it yet)
-the maps are way better
-the voice search is nice and
-the hand sets are cheaper (though not all of them, and there is very little resale value there)
-The phone can be used as a USB mass storage device though it isn't detected properly a large percentage of the time and I have to change the transfer mode on the phone back and forth

Apple still wins on usability, apps, smoothness, build quality, customer service and that right there is the reason I still use them. Every year when I get a new phone, I do look around and see what's available and buy a couple to try out, but since 2007, that choice has always been Apple. Were I a teen again with limited budget and with a knack for tinkering I would probably go Android, but I value the total package now and lack of hassle.

RE: optimistic
By retrospooty on 11/30/2012 7:03:40 AM , Rating: 2
Like I said above somewhere. If you don't use or need the dozen+ things that the iPhone lacks its a good choice. It's certainly fast and has better app support. For me there are just way to many "dont have's" for a high end phone.

"Death Is Very Likely The Single Best Invention Of Life" -- Steve Jobs

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