Steve Ballmer says Microsoft should disclose profits, sales from hardware and cloud businesses

Mark Coppock

Microsoft ex-CEO Steve Ballmer left the company in current CEO Satya Nadella’s capable hands a couple of years ago, after setting up some of the company’s current strategies and requiring some other changes. For example, Ballmer got the Surface ball rolling, but he was also behind the Nokia acquisition. Win some, lose some.
Now that he’s just another Microsoft shareholder, albeit one of some significance, Ballmer has some ideas on how the company should be run. As Bloomberg Business reports, Ballmer really wishes that Microsoft would release their hardware sales and margin numbers so that investors like him can more easily analyze the company’s performance. Microsoft reports run rates for annualized revenue for the entire cloud business and revenue/margin information on only some specific businesses, which isn’t as much detail as Ballmer would like to see.

“It’s sort of a key metric — if they talk about it as key to the company, they should report it,” said Ballmer, who is the company’s biggest individual shareholder, in a conversation in the audience at the software maker’s annual meeting in Bellevue, Washington.

We might comment that when Ballmer was the head of Microsoft, the company didn’t typically report these very same metrics, either. Perhaps it’s simply that Ballmer enjoyed having access to such information as Microsoft CEO.
Microsoft’s response was cordial and diplomatic, as can be expected:

“We enjoy a regular dialogue with Steve, and welcome his input and feedback, as we do from our other investors.” said Chris Suh, Microsoft’s general manager for investor relations.

We can’t help but notice a little zinger in there, though, namely “as we do from our other investors,” and we don’t expect Microsoft to make any significant changes just to please Ballmer. But it’s fun to watch the former Microsoft CEO as he interacts with his old company and its new (and old) ways of doing business.