Microsoft’s Ballmer Defends His Company’s Performance

Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) CEO Steve Ballmer hasn’t quite gotten the best reviews lately (Newsweek‘s Dan Lyons recently called Microsoft under his leadership the company’s “lost decade.”) But during the company’s annual meeting Thursday, Ballmer offered a defense of the company’s performance, saying that despite Microsoft’s first ever annual drop in sales Microsoft was on the “right track.” He pointed to the company’s cost cuts, including its 5,000-plus layoffs, as evidence that Microsoft was “more agile” and “definitely more competitive.” He listed the company’s recent product releases, including Windows 7, which he said was selling twice as quickly as Vista. And he said that the company’s besting of analyst estimates last quarter was a “great achievement” (True, considering that during the previous quarter the company had missed analyst revenue estimates by $1 billion).

So, what did shareholders think? There were the standard questions on executive compensation and employee ethics. But one shareholder also stood out and said that the company was a “buffoon” in the eyes of young people. “You have a really bad image out there,” he said. “The truth of the matter is we do quite well,” Ballmer responded. “Do we have opportunity for improvement? Yes, some of that is marketing, some of that is lifestyle. Ninety-six percent of people chose Windows. That doesn’t let us rest on our laurels. Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) picked up a couple tenths of a percentage points over the last year.” He noted that the company was celebrating its small share gains in the search market so it would acknowledge Apple’s gains too.

In response to another question, Ballmer stood up for the performance of the company’s mobile operations, saying that the company continued to have more market share in the smart phone market than Google’s Android. He said the company’s focus on mobile operating software was the right one, since it allowed the company to offer a diversity of Windows phones. “Undoubtely, we have our work cut out for us,” he said. “We have injected a ton of … additional Microsoft employees into that area. We have our head’s down to do our best.”