Microsoft today held its annual shareholder meeting, leaving one significant Microsoft shareholder—former CEO Steve Ballmer—less than happy with the way the company reports the financial performance both of its nascent hardware business and of its cloud business, according to Dina Bass at Bloomberg.
That's because the company hasn't disclosed profit margins or sales figures for either business. Ballmer says that revenue is a "key metric" and that if these businesses are important then the company "should report it." Rather than reporting these figures, Microsoft has reported its annualized revenue run rate—a hypothetical value that describes what the company's revenue would be if the current level of sales were sustained over the full year. Ballmer's view of the run rate: "Bullshit. They should report the revenue, not the run rate."
Margin is also important because of the shifting revenue base of the company. Margins for software (which can be duplicated at zero cost) tend to be very high; margins for hardware and cloud services tend to be lower. As Microsoft shifts more revenue from software, such as Office, to cloud services, such as Office 365, its margins will change. Ballmer wants these margins to be reported to make this visible. This lack of transparency means that Ballmer has no idea how the company is really doing.