Should Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer step down?

An influential hedge fund manager insists that the tech giant's stale stock would get a boost if Bill Gates' college buddy stepped aside

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer
(Image credit: Brooks Kraft/Corbis)

At an investor conference Wednesday, David Einhorn, a major hedge fund manager, called for Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer to step down and "give someone else a chance." For the last decade, the tech giant's shares have been at a standstill, while the company consistently failed to innovate and ceded much of the market to Apple. Ballmer's "continued presence is the biggest overhang on Microsoft's stock," Einhorn said. Would Microsoft — and its stock — be better off without Ballmer?

He doesn't have the best track record: Ballmer knows he's made mistakes, says Josh Ong at Apple Insider. Last summer, he copped to his company's tablet problems, noting that he wished Apple wasn't selling so many of those darn iPads. And this week, he admitted that the Windows Phone 7 came out a year too late. On top of all that, a number of "key executives" have left Microsoft in the past few months. You can see why some say it's time for Bill Gates' Harvard buddy to go, too.

"Prominent hedge fund manager calls for Microsoft's Ballmer to step down"

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Give Ballmer some credit for Microsoft's gaming success: Say what you will about Ballmer and Microsoft's "unimpressive" stock price, but he deserves praise for the company's successful gaming division — the "one area where Microsoft's investment in new businesses has paid off," says Peter Cohan at Forbes. Still, unless the board wants to put Ballmer in charge of an expanded gaming division and let Apple's Steve Jobs run the rest of Microsoft, the company "is likely to remain dead money."

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Einhorn is just a drama queen, anyway: The mouthy hedge fund manager is "known for his often controversial statements and ideas," says Azam Ahmed in The New York Times. Ballmer is just the latest corporate honcho to be a target of his criticism. Einhorn was playing to the conference crowd, who were likely hoping "for sparks to fly."

"Ballmer must go, Einhorn says"

Besides, Ballmer will never get canned: Microsoft's CEO has said that he won't step down until 2017, when his youngest child leaves for college, so the Microsoft board would have to fire him, says Matt Rosoff at Business Insider. That's unlikely, given that the small company board would need Bill Gates' support to fire his old college buddy. "Ballmer haters can dream" about that scenario, "but I don't see that ever happening.

"There's only one person who can fire Steve Ballmer (MSFT)"

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