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Ballmer Says No to Yahoo, Yes to Research

You gotta love Steve Ballmer. Here's a man who doesn't need to work but toils harder than any of us, speaks his mind the way many of us could only dream, and heads a company that makes more profit in one day than the big three automakers make in a year. Ballmer is just plain interesting.

Yesterday, Ballmer was in his element, helping to oversee the company's annual shareholder meeting.

Despite overt pleas from Yahoo shareholders and the resignation of Yahoo's CEO Jerry Yang, Ballmer has less interest in buying Yahoo than he does bailing out the auto industry -- which Microsoft could actually afford to do (or at least try). As I've suggested here many times, Microsoft would be better off spending its billions in cash on building things no one of has ever thought of, not buying me-too technology.

Ballmer, who always answers my e-mails but I'm pretty sure doesn't read my newsletter, agrees. He told shareholders the company must continue to invest in smart people doing pure research as well as product development. And like all of us, Ballmer is tightening the old Microsoft belt, and is actually looking toward a shrunken head count. Layoffs, anyone?

In other news, former Microsoft president and longtime board member Jon Shirley retired as a director. At one of the last shareholder meetings, Shirley gave me a ride in his black Porsche 944 to a Microsoft reception. Shirley, along with Mike Maples, was one of the truly great Microsoft presidents.

Posted by Doug Barney on 11/20/2008 at 1:16 PM


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