updated 06:45 pm EST, Wed November 28, 2012
Ballmer insinuates Wall Street to blame for slow stock price climb
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer took the stage at the company's annual shareholders meeting, conceding that the Windows maker should have been "more proactive" in coming to market with an iPad competitor. Also in the meeting, Ballmer suggested that he had done all he could to drive the company's stagnant stock up -- but it was not Microsoft's failures, but Wall Street's inability to recognize improvement, that prevented investment growth.
"We're innovating on the seam between software and hardware," responded Ballmer to a shareholder's question as to why the company had fallen behind Apple. "Maybe we should have done that earlier."
"We see nothing but a sea of upside," Ballmer said, referring to the company's recent foray into the tablet market with the Surface. "I feel pretty good about our level of innovation," he added. Microsoft has still not released sales figures for the first iteration of the Windows RT tablet.
Ballmer and Chief Financial Officer Peter Klein were asked by a group of shareholders to explain Microsoft's stock price, which has been essentially growth-free for a decade. "I understand your comment," Klein responded. Ballmer believes that Microsoft had "done a phenomenal job of driving product volumes" and was focusing on profiting from sales growth. "The stock market's kind of a funny thing," he said, adding that Microsoft had handed back $10 billion in dividends and share buybacks to investors in the last fiscal year, with little expected stock price increase from the move during that time.