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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 1:54:10 PM , Rating: 1
Consider: in the following areas iOS (which sells less units) is a better platform than Android (which sells more).

advertising revenue; ... profitability; ... content revenue; control of the platform; ... lock-in; loyalty; monetization; profits to developers; ... repeat customers; retention; ... trust
You do realize that these are benefits for Apple and devs, not the consumer. If anything, the fact that Apple is able to monetize your purchase so well says that they are better at milking their customers. Good reason to invest in Apple. Bad reason to purchase Apple.
culture; demographics; ... popularity with teens;
Seriously? You're going after the culture of the teenage demographic as an advantage. Popularity in the teenage crowd moves as chaotically as dust in the wind.

If the higher third party developer profits resulted in a preponderance of superior apps that appealed to the majority of users and was available only on iOS, you might have a point. As it is, most of the common apps are multi-platform. There are some exclusives, but that goes both ways.

So the majority of your points boil down to "Apple is better because my teenage cousin/daughter/nephew thinks its cool and I like giving more money to Apple and App developers". Some of you points (Engagement) don't even make sense (Are you talking about the guy who tried to marry his iPhone?). Some are flat out wrong in my experience (re-sale value). Have you tried selling your iPhone to get the latest iPhone. People I've dealt with won't pay jack because it is no longer the latest one and that makes it suddenly worthless to them. In fact, you could throw fastest new release adoption in your list of good for Apple things.

Point of interest: there is an argument that could be made for the advantages of iOS with consumers, but you are so Apple centric that you've buried them under a pile of what's good for Apple. I can't help but think that you have some vested interest in Apple's well being as I simply can not otherwise resolve why Apple's benefit at the detriment of their consumers should be considered advantageous to their consumers. Nonetheless, these are the "advantages" you've presented.

"What would I do? I'd shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders." -- Michael Dell, after being asked what to do with Apple Computer in 1997

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