Give Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer a microphone and in no time, you're bound to get a couple of great zingers out of him. At a shareholder meeting this week, he did not disappoint.
Ballmer, facing a sea of Joe PCs in Redmond, Wash., must have been at the end of his rope when a fresh face in the audience asked him during the Q&A session about rekindling takeover talks with Yahoo.
The question seemed apropos, now that co-founder and industry piñata Jerry Yang announced he was backing down from CEO duties this week.
Perhaps it was the constant badgering of the press in the last six months that finally got to Ballmer. Perhaps it was the pressure of trying to fix Windows Vista, while coming up with a battle plan for Windows 7. Maybe it was trying to describe how Microsoft's push into cloud computing and unified communications is a bigger deal than it looks like on the surface while keeping a straight face. It might have even been that prank call from Yang (...I'll always bleed purple) taunting Ballmer about what could have been.
Whatever it was, Ballmer decided to set everyone straight...for now.
"Let me be as clear as I think I've tried to be publicly," Ballmer said. "We are done with all acquisition discussions with Yahoo. I've said that a bunch of times, somehow some of the people have gotten confused nonetheless. We did our best. We thought we had something that made sense. It didn't make sense to them. We've moved."
Now just let that sink in. Hear the words as he said it. What do they mean?
"We are done with all acquisition discussions with Yahoo."
Translation: We are done with trying to make a public mockery of a company that already is pretty foolish looking. We'll revisit this in about 6 months.
"We did our best. We thought we had something that made sense.
Translation: Hey, even in the game of Monopoly, you try and cut the other guy some slack to make it interesting. Nobody likes a blowout, unless you're Alabama coach Nick Saban. We offered a fair price...like Dr. Evil and his one million dollars!!!
"It didn't make sense to them."
Translation: I guess we showed them too many charts and graphs. Perhaps we should have just come out and showed them our permission slip from Terry Semel saying it was alright to do this.
Any way you slice it, Yahoo shares plunged as Microsoft said "No Deal"
The difference is, however, that no one at Microsoft publicly said Ballmer should throw in the towel just because the Microhoo! bid failed.
Follow my other rants on Twitter at MichaelSinger.
(A big thanks to Antone Gonsalves, who took notes during the shareholder meeting.)