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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 JPForums on 12/3/2012 12:54:35 PM , Rating: 3
Even after the JB improvements, Android still has a LONG way to go to catch up with iOS.
Subjective. It really depends on which aspects of the phone are important to the individual in question.
I'd argue that WP8 is much closer to getting to that benchmark based on the fact that support isn't entirely in the hands of carriers
Ah, the Achilles heal of android. It is hard to call a phone open when your carrier can saddle it with software that you don't won't, remove features that you do want, and otherwise limit how you use your phone. Yes, you can root an android phone, but that makes them exactly no different than any other phone. Apple doesn't pretend to be open. Microsoft, while also closed, gives you the ability to uninstall anything the carrier adds from the phone. They don't allow Carrier IQ and similarly take issue with Verizon's remote management software that has been reported as an avenue to mine data from its customers. Google lets them do what they want and additionally lock it down so that you can't change it. They only Android phones that I would truly consider "Open" are the Google Nexus phones as they are the only ones without Carrier IQ, a plethora of locked down modifications, and the need to root your phone to get full control over it.
All that said, hardware makers are still putting inferior hardware and displays into their Android hardware.
The fact that some android phones ship with clearly inferior hardware can be considered both a disadvantage and an advantage. Using lesser hardware with lower prices puts Android phones in the reach of people who can afford or don't care to put out the extra money for better. Despite my personal leanings towards quality, I must admit there is some merit in buying cheap when your phone is completely obsoleted in 18 months or less. The disadvantage is people who don't do their homework may end up with a phone that doesn't meet their expectations. That said, if they do do their homework and put out the money, they can end up with an android handset that is similarly high end to an iPhone. Again, which is better is subjective, depending on what aspects of the phone you value more.

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