Friday night I read a great post by Horace Dediu titled the Poetry of Steve Ballmer. Dediu highlights 3 quotes from Ballmer discussing Microsoft's (MSFT) view on Apple (AAPL). One of Dediu's readers (@robspychala) sums it up as 2007: Laugh, 2010: Ignore, 2012: Fight. Sorry folks the game is over. You can't squander 5 years then decide to fight. If this was a boxing match - the ref would be brought up on ethic charges for sending Microsoft out for another round.
It is really sad to see once great companies crumble. I witnessed it first hand when Microsoft and Intel (INTC) disrupted mini-computers. Great companies, that employed hundreds of thousands people, like Digital Equipment Corp, Wang Labs and others were wiped out. Smart phones and tablets are doing the very same thing to PCs. Dell (DELL) and HP (HPQ) are shells of their former selves. Cell phone makers that continued to produce cell phones instead of mobile computers are history. Palm is gone. Research in Motion (RIMM) and Nokia (NOK) are almost gone. I took a lot of heat for calling out Research in Motion in 2010; now that call looks pretty prescient. Microsoft is next on deck.
I know it's hard to fathom Microsoft as "Palm" dead. I'm not willing to go there. Even "Research in Motion" dead may be a bridge too far, but it is dead enough to ignore as an investment. I view the Smart Phone wars through an investing prism. I could care less what kind of phone you carry. My objective is to make money via the stock market by betting on the winners and losers.
Sometimes it's as important to understand which companies to avoid. If the following Steve Ballmer quote doesn't concern you - I don't know what to say. In response to a recent Vanity Fair article that said Microsoft's last ten years has been a lost decade, Ballmer said "It's not been a lost decade for me!" I'm not sure how many hundreds of millions Ballmer has racked in salary, but his investors haven't gotten squat. Based on his Laugh, Ignore and Fight strategy, the next decade will be just as bare.
I could go on about how the Surface on Windows 8 is "dead on arrival." Ballmer has been backing down since its introduction. Initially, it was going to sell millions. Now it is simply a design point. I never did understand all of the hoopla over a kickstand and keyboard cover anyway.
Disclosure: Microsoft is dead in its own kind of way and I will be looking for opportunities to short it versus my long Apple position.