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Microsoft and the Lost Empire

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The two most important things I learned in high school history class were that, first, it is true that teachers have eyes in the back of their heads, and second, empires simply do not last. This is something Wall Street understands better than most, as evident by the current state of Research in Motion (RIMM), the fall of Blockbuster, Eastman Kodak, Nokia (NOK) and countless other names.

However, the question is, can they rise again? Aside from a company such as Apple (AAPL - Get Report) -- and it can be argued that Apple never really had an "empire" prior to 2001 -- Wall Street has never seen it happen.

Last week, discussing the potential impact of Windows 8 for software giant Microsoft (MSFT - Get Report), I asked rhetorically can its management survive another failure? I asked this because despite its dominance, the company has established a litany of failures over the past decade -- all under the watch of its current CEO Steve Ballmer who many analysts would love to replace if they were members of the company's board.
Microsoft's CEO Steve Ballmer

For this reason, Wall Street has gone out of its way to exploit every opportunity to punish the company mercilessly because it is not Apple. Meanwhile people like me rush to the company's rescue, reminding investors there is still brilliance in the making if the company is given a little bit more time. However, I often wonder if my loyalty to Microsoft will only end up blowing up in my face.

As much as I want to continue giving the company the benefit of the doubt, it has occurred to me that I shouldn't be working so hard to come to its defense -- at least since I don't collect legal fees.

The reason is simple; I am emotionally attached to the company. As much as I have denounced "emotion" on Wall Street, Microsoft has always been a company for which I have made an exception -- and I don't think that will ever change.

On the other hand, change within the company is certain to come should Windows 8 falls short of expectations -- starting with the likely removal of Ballmer. As much as I like him as a manager, I don't think Microsoft this time will have a choice. Though Windows 8 has the ability to silence his critics, the likelihood that it can also seal his fate should not be ignored. I think this is a make-or-break opportunity for Ballmer and likely his real last shot upgrading the legacy both for him and the company that have been in a downtrend since Bill Gates left the post.
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