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TheStreet Open House

Microsoft Should Go Private; HP Should Shut Up

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- I'm not surprised that I took some grief for Thursday's I Hate Microsoft And Shareholders Should Too article.

In fact, the vitriolic response comes from a small segment of the readership that shoots the messenger, rather than directing their dismay at Microsoft (MSFT) CEO Steve Ballmer for what amounts to a fleecing of shareholders over the last five years.

On the same day as my article, a Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) executive took a shot at Microsoft, noting that the Surface tablet isn't real competition to HP's Windows 8 devices.

This is what happens in a dying space. Partnerships get all disjointed, even ugly. It becomes a battle of every man, woman and child for him/herself, but -- and here's the kicker -- the crew doesn't have what it takes to win as a united core or in divided parts. Nobody can step up.

As such, you have what we have. Losers and failures snarking at one another or, in Microsoft's case, a CEO with zero room to talk repeatedly going after the company -- Apple (AAPL) -- that scarfed down his firm's lunch, but isn't done digesting it.

For as abysmal a job I think he has done, I have to give Steve Ballmer credit for one thing. He must be one thick-skinned son of a gun.

Why does he put up with all of this crap?

Part of me says, retire, buy an island somewhere and enjoy the final third or so of your life. The other part -- the part that works 16-18 hours a day -- understands that guys like Ballmer have a relentless desire to win.

Speaking of that, Jim Cramer emailed me after reading Thursday's Microsoft article.

His food for thought: Why be public? MSFT sells for 5.5 times EBITDA. Take the stinking thing private! Cramer brought that up Thursday morning on CNBC with David Faber.

My initial reaction? Here it is, lifted directly from the email:

Right. But if private, fewer people pay attention to them and they fade from relevancy even faster than they have/are now.

Cramer's response: In a nutshell, no, you're wrong. Why deal with the sideshow? All everybody does anymore is focus on the CEO, the last five years, Steve Sinofsky leaving, mistakes and uncertainty. But there's no focus on cash flow and Microsoft's balance sheet. Take the thing private, sell off some parts and refocus.

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