Microsoft Corp Chief Executive Steve Ballmer has made an impassioned plea to investors to support his vision of the world's largest software company as a unified devices and services powerhouse in his swan song before Wall Street.
Ballmer, who in August said he planned to step down within 12 months, told investors and analysts in an annual meeting on Thursday that Microsoft had a bright future, despite missteps under his 13-year tenure.
"We have the tools. There's economic upside here. In the long run, we are almost uniquely poised to seize the opportunity," he said, in a typically high-volume presentation. "Today I'm speaking as an investor. You all own Microsoft stock, cheer for it, for God's sake."
Ballmer, who took over from co-founder Bill Gates as CEO in 2000, did acknowledge that under his leadership the company was too focused on Windows to realize that Apple Inc's iPhone was revolutionizing computing.
"If there's one thing I regret, there was a period in the early 2000s when we were so focused on what we had to do around Windows that we weren't able to redeploy talent to the new device form factor called the phone," said Ballmer.
After losing ground to Apple and Google Inc in mobile and internet arenas for the last 10 years, Ballmer in July launched an ambitious reorganization focused on "devices and services." He announced his retirement only six weeks later amid pressure from some discontented shareholders.
Ballmer said the top layers of that reorganization had taken effect, but the new functionally organized groups were at different stages in working out exactly how they will be structured. The company had no comments on the progress of the board's search for a new CEO.
"It really was a fundamental shift from running a set of separate business units where we tried to make connection points to running a company that is essentially one integrated entity," said Ballmer, attempting to explain his vision.
During four hours of presentations, which were interrupted for about half an hour due to a power cut, Microsoft executives expanded on Ballmer's idea, explaining how the company would continue its push into making its own hardware - following the deal to buy phone maker Nokia - and would stress services rather than products, while keeping individual consumers in mind rather than chiefly concentrating on businesses.
Qi Lu, the executive in charge of applications and services, hinted that Microsoft's popular Office suite of applications would