When investors discuss the legacy of Steve Ballmer, they often cite Microsoft's share drop from the heights of the bubbly 1990s. The company's stock price was soaring at a split-adjusted high of $59.56 just weeks before Ballmer took over as CEO in January 2000, and since that year, it has never closed above $40.
Wall Street's tacit disapproval of Ballmer is an important factor in the executive's legacy as the company, which reports earnings later today, searches for his successor. But there are other numbers that help define the 13-year tenure of the software giant's second CEO.
Ballmer is no Bill Gates, but he presided over a six-fold increase in server-software sales, now one of the company's largest businesses. Sales from the Office unit tripled. Ballmer instituted dividends that would have yielded $8.23 for investors who have held the stock the whole time the CEO was in charge. (Many of them didn't.)
There was no Xbox for sale before Ballmer. After amassing huge losses early on, it's gone on to generate $7.1 billion in sales during the last fiscal year. Perhaps more important, people actually love the product.
Even the Windows business, Microsoft's original cash cow, has more than doubled in sales since Ballmer became CEO. But that number doesn't tell the full story. In 2000, PCs were really the only computing device in town for most people, and Windows had more than 90 percent of the market. With the advent of smartphones and tablets, and Microsoft's complete failure to amass share there, Goldman Sachs estimated last year that Windows runs on just 19 percent of the computing devices consumers use.
That's the number that should cause the most agony for Ballmer's successor.