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Gates Hand-off Leads To Tough Road For Ballmer

"There may have been better times for a handoff," writes Bloomberg News on the day that Bill Gates finally hands Microsoft Corp. over to the sole leadership of CEO Steve Ballmer. Indeed, Microsoft's stock is down 22% this year, Windows is losing power amid the rise of Web-based computing services, and its Yahoo pursuit eventually landed in Google's favor, effectively ending the search wars.

As Jane Snorek, analyst at Minneapolis-based First American Funds, says, Ballmer will now be left alone to bear the brunt of the scrutiny over Microsoft's failure to impress Wall Street. "The No. 1 judgment of a CEO is the stock," the Microsoft shareholder said. "The stock hasn't recovered."

How can Ballmer revive Microsoft's shares? Finding a firm footing in online advertising, which the company has long indicated will be its primary focus moving forward, would be a good start. Of course, that will be tough now that Yahoo, the world's biggest seller of display advertising, has slipped through the company's hands. That acquisition would have immediately established the software giant as the No. 2 contender in the $65.2 billion industry.

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