If an MSFT share was worth 35 when he took over (at the top of the bubble) and it's the same now then it does not mean (at all) that he was a crap CEO. MSFT still remains one of the most important tech companies ever, that's not a small feat. I don't think that he's an extremely brilliant CEO, but tech companies come and go, and MSFT is still close to the top. Even if everyone in the media is 100% focused on mobile now.
$60 at the top of the bubble; it was already in decline when he took over; surely not (entirely) his fault. On the other hand, $35 in 2000 dollars is $47 today, so that’s a significant inflation-adjusted loss of value. On the other other hand, they paid out $7.69 in dividends during that time, which is a reasonable portion of what is lost to inflation.
Where am I going with this? Oh yeah, share price is not a great metric for company or CEO performance, and when its used people rarely evaluate all the factors correctly.
This. Why is everyone caring about share price? Look more at revenue and market growth. Xbox took over consoles, Bing is the only search engine to capture whole percenetage points of search from Google, and they still have an ungodly monopoly on enterprise software from office to visual studio.
Most public companies could give less of a crap about their share price after the IPO. What people trade shares for is really inconsequential as long as the company itself maintains 51% and stock market panics on them don't leak to their profit centers.
I think it depends on what you mean by "important". If you mean big in the industry and making products on which a lot of people depend, yes. If you mean influential in the future, then I think not.
Microsoft is a railroad company in the early days of the automobile. They're a typewriter company in the early days of the microcomputer. They're a sailing-ship builder in the early days of steam. They're important currently, but they're being left behind, and they have not positioned themselves to get in on the new stuff.
It takes a long time for changes to happen. Microsoft can live fat off the PC for a long time to come. But they will slowly slide into irrelevancy if they stick with that.
What makes you think desktops and laptops are going to stop being relevant within our lifetimes? In reality, Microsoft is in a very safe position, only facing competition in markets they never had a strong hold on to begin with. In the markets Microsoft is really dominant in they are in almost no danger. Let's put it this way: top business-user reasons for virtualization on GNU/Linux are running Windows Server to run Exchange and running Windows to run stock market software. Try taking Office away from the big business customers who bring major income to Microsoft.
The comparison to railroads is apt. Railroads are still immensely important, even if people no longer romanticize them. Innovations in railroad technology are still very important. The financial difficulties railroads faced in the middle of the 20th century had more to do with the government promoting automobiles than with the superiority of cars and trucks. If Microsoft is the technology world's' equivalent of a railroad they are in a pretty good position -- they might not be the company everyone is talking about but they will be the company that everyone is dependent on.
With the exception of typewriter, all of those markets are still around today. Not only that, sailing ships remained vital to intercontinental trade over the next hundred years after steam ships were introduced. These days rail is still hugely important in the transportation of goods and energy all around the world.