News about Ballmer’s sudden sell off of stock had a lot of people thinking that the Microsoft CEO was losing faith in Microsoft’s products. Truth turns out to be stranger than fiction in this case. Apparently Ballmer sold off much of his stock to avoid an otherwise hefty tax hit. Yes, he is not planning on bailing Microsoft any time soon. Bundle this with the increase of capital gains tax from 15% to 20%, it doesn’t take a genius to see why Ballmer sold his stock off and sold it off fast. “Why pay more than you have to?” is likely the thought of the day here.
Now imagine if the Microsoft CEO put in half as much thought to what would make sense for the new mobile platform as he did getting stocks in order? The platform itself is rather inventive and full of cool potential. But rather than targeting folks new to the smart phone market, perhaps those looking for bigger text and more dynamic home page functionality like Windows Phone 7 offers, Ballmer’s company is instead attempting to convert otherwise happy smart phone users with the idea of using their mobile devices less. Seriously Microsoft?
So if I am to understand this correctly, get in and get out is the mantra for this new smart phone platform, one in which you are attempting to seek out developers whom are likely to want people to spend more than a few seconds with their application. It’s like watching the lousy marketing efforts for Windows Vista all over again.
Now we need to reexamine the question again. Did Ballmer really sell off his stock to save on capital gains taxes or perhaps, instead, there is another added bonus involved? While I believe the tax savings reasoning to be sound, I cannot help but wonder if Microsoft’s CEO is watching how poorly his company is marketing a device that, with a little more time in the oven, could have been awesome. Fix a few key issues, stop repelling developers by telling mobile users to “get in and get out” of their mobile experience quickly, and maybe holding onto that Microsoft stock might be more profitable in the long run despite any potential tax hit down the road.
This might seem like a harsh view, but after looking past any Windows Phone 7 shortcomings, it seems fairly obvious to me that if played out properly with multitasking, copy/paste, and a strong developer status with apps, Windows Phone 7 could become a major player. The key is for Microsoft’s CEO to stop giving people the wrong idea by selling off so much stock and, instead, take a long term view by holding onto it as an act of faith that he wants his company to succeed. Seems fair to me.