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Ballmer's appeal to shareholders: Not what it used to be

Microsoft's CEO scores a 92 percent approval from shareholders this year. Too bad that's on the downswing.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer at Microsoft's 2011 annual meeting.
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer at Microsoft's 2011 annual meeting. Jay Greene/CNET

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer remains popular among shareholders by and large, but their support is on the decline.

Ballmer this week won the approval of 92 percent of shareholders, earning a total of 5.4 billion votes in favor and 468 million votes against, according to a Form 8-K that Microsoft filed Thursday with the Securities and Exchange Commission, outlining the election of its board of directors.

Although that's an overwhelming majority for Ballmer, it's down from the 95 percent approval from shareholders last year.

Over the last several years, shareholders have been expressing their dissatisfaction with Ballmer over a host of issues, including the company's static stock price. In addition, the board in October outlined some of the issues it has with Ballmer, saying that "lower than expected initial sales of Windows Phone 7," along with a 2 percent decline in Windows and Windows Live Division revenue, held it back from giving the Microsoft CEO his full bonus on the year.

Additionally, the board at that time seemed concerned that Ballmer wasn't doing enough to improve "further progress in new form factors," such as tablets.

Shareholders this week took aim at Ballmer at the company's annual meeting, saying that he needs to find ways to create new value at Microsoft. One shareholder suggested he could do that by breaking up the software giant into smaller, more agile firms.

"There's nothing that I see in creating fundamental value in splitting the company up," Ballmer said in response.

But even with those complaints, it's hard to argue with Ballmer's performance on a financial level over the years. Over the last four years, his company has generated between $58 billion and $70 billion in annual revenue, and Microsoft's profit has soared. During its last-reported fiscal year ended June 30, the company posted a profit of $23 billion.

And yet, Ballmer was the only Microsoft board member that didn't receive 99 percent support from shareholders. Even Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates was able to secure 99.1 percent approval from shareholders this year.