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May 26th, 2011 - 11:27 am

Giant hedge fund manager to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer: Step down!

“His continued presence is the biggest overhang on Microsoft’s stock,” [David] Einhorn said in reference to Ballmer.

The comments by outspoken Einhorn, who made his name warning about Lehman Brothers’ financial health before the investment bank’s collapse, are the most pointed yet from a high-profile investor against Microsoft’s leadership.

Microsoft shares, which have been static for over a decade, gained 0.87 percent in after-hours trading after Einhorn’s comments, the most of any Dow Jones industrial average component.

Ballmer is a one-trick pony — and it isn’t even his trick. Find an existing market, throw money and talent at it until Version 3.0 is good enough to compete, then dominate the market and leverage for big profits. It’s a brute-force approach, which worked well enough in the Nineties (Windows) and the Naughts (Xbox), but has run out of steam for in the “post-PC” era.

People still want and need their PCs, and Microsoft will keep making tons of money on Windows and Office. But that market will change eventually, and with Ballmer at the top, Microsoft is uniquely unsuited to deal with that eventuality.

Honestly though, Ballmer is less of a dinosaur than he his an ungainly creature.

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