Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer responded to calls for him to quit his position on Wednesday.
Ballmer spoke at a lunch time appearance at the Rotary Club of Seattle on Wednesday. “You tell me if I have the energy, conviction, passion … or drive,” Ballmer said to an audience member who questioned him on calls for him to quit Microsoft. Ballmer also expressed the importance of Windows. “You cut me open and saw what was inside: Windows. Windows. Windows. Windows,” Ballmer said in an audio recording obtained by GeekWire. “Our company was born on the back of Windows. Windows underpins a huge percentage of all of our success, all of our profitability, all of the important things that we do. So, how important is it? Very, would be a very fair answer.”
The Seattle Times reports that Ballmer appeared to discuss Microsoft’s earnings for the 2011 fiscal year. Microsoft is officially scheduled to report them on July 21:
“At Microsoft we believe in that opportunity. We’ve investing in those opportunities. We’re building the products that we hope are the difference makers. We’ve been very fortunate. We’ve made bets. We’ve built products. We’ve made the difference. There’s a reason why we’ll do almost $70 billion in revenue this year, and we’ll make over 20-whatever, $26-27 billion in profits. There are reasons — we made the right bets. And we’re making the bets for the future.”
Ballmers positive outlook on the company’s upcoming earnings would also explain why Microsoft’s stock price has steadily risen this week. peaking at nearly $26 compared to $24 a week ago. Ballmer also revealed what he sees as the future of computers. “No. 1, your computer will learn to recognize you, your voice, your fingers,” he said. Ballmer also focused on touchscreens and touch computing. “The second biggest thing I think is my computer will learn to understand me,” Ballmer said. “If I say to my administrative assistant, ‘Get me ready for my trip down to Rotary,’ she’s brilliant” and she knows to get him directions, notes and a biography of who he will be meeting with, he said. “If I go to my computer and say, ‘Get me ready for Rotary,’ it has no idea where to look.” Ballmer pointed towards Microsoft’s investments in Bing as part of the idea of better search.
Calls for Ballmer to be removed as CEO of Microsoft came initially from influential hedge fund manager David Einhorn. He called for Steve Ballmer to step down from Microsoft. “Give someone else a chance” said Einhorn. “His continued presence is the biggest overhang on Microsoft’s stock,” he added. Einhorn is the president of Greenlight Capital and an infamous short seller. The hedge fund manager has previous held short positions on Lehman Brothers and Allied Capital, both went bankrupt during the “credit crunch” woes.
Despite Einhorn’s words, Microsoft’s board stood by Steve Ballmer. Microsoft’s nine-person board, including Chairman and co-founder Bill Gates, supports Ballmer. A number of other investors have not shared Einhorn’s call for Ballmer to be removed. Microsoft’s stock has suffered since Ballmer has been in charge but most analysts and investors feel it would be a hard task to find someone adequate to replace him.
Update: Article corrected to accurately reflect Ballmer’s speech.