Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Ballmer & Kaminsky On Microsoft's Skype Acquisition

Yesterday afternoon, around 12:25PM, I happened to catch the latter part of a live interview on CNBC with Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and Skype's CEO. The two CEOs were, of course, talking up their just-announced deal.

I wrote some initial remarks here mid-morning. What I saw that afternoon only reinforced my initial impressions.

First, Ballmer was dancing like crazy to paint all sorts of nebulous introductions of various Microsoft product and service user bases to Skype. That both are all about communications.

Funny- I thought Microsoft was mostly about operating systems, tools like Office, and some hanger-on internet services like XBox, Explorer and Messenger. The latter two of which are free.

Since Windows Messenger already provides video chatting, why would I pay to use Skype now?

Ballmer mentioned Office products and Skype, but, again, every free chat facility with which I am acquainted also allows file transfers and sharing. So, nothing new there, either. And it's already free.

Basically, as I watched Ballmer bluster about how great the deal is, it occurred to me that Microsoft has been a gigantic disappointment under his reign. As it was under his predecessor and buddy, Bill Gates, since 2000.

But there was more. Being CNBC, they didn't allow any tough questions from David Faber, on whose program the interview was hosted, or his colleague, Gary Kaminsky.

Instead, after they cut away from Ballmer's interview, Faber asked Kaminsky for his reaction. It was scathing. Actually along the lines of, but far more blistering than my post yesterday.

Kaminsky ticked off three things he felt made the deal pointless. First, it's small relative to Microsoft's total assets.

Second, He noted that the firm's stock price has fallen roughly 50% under Ballmer's stewardship. And that, during the time, the CEO had cashed in about a billion dollars worth of his own Microsoft shares.

To Kaminsky, the first point meant that, even if it helps Microsoft, the Skype deal won't "move the needle."

The last two points were his way of saying, essentially,

'Hey, we're talking about Ballmer, who hasn't performed  for shareholders yet, and sold a lot of his own stock in the company.'

Personally, I think I would have paid money to see 5 minutes of Kaminskly on air with Ballmer. But, to preserve their access to the Microsoft's burly, combative CEO, you know that CNBC's producers would never allow that to happen.

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