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Gentry: Microsoft's Leadership Problem

The technology world has changed since Microsoft successfully rose to the top of the PC software business. The company's major competitors today, such as Apple (AAPL) and Google (GOOG), are extremely well capitalized - in both human and financial terms- which hasn't always been true of many of Microsoft's competitors in the past. Furthermore, both of these competitors have shown boldness with new product introductions and an ability to discern consumer preferences much better than Microsoft. Additionally, Microsoft must also contend with the loss of the significance of its once venerable ecosystem.

During its rise to prominence, Microsoft was able to leverage a vibrant and profitable partner system to maintain dominance in many of its markets. Today, few would argue that companies like Hewlett Packard (HPQ) and Dell (DELL) can provide the momentum for the ecosystem that they once did.

In recent years, we have seen little evidence that Microsoft's management team is executing at the level that should be expected of such a resource-rich global company. Rather, it seems that disappointment, delay and dogmatism have been more hallmarks of the company in recent years than has excitement, innovation and leadership. Microsoft's recent string of disappointing product introductions bear witness to the reality that the company has lost its way.

To be sure, there is intense pressure on the company's executive team to demonstrate the foresight and the credibility required to lead its talented employees through a period of time unlike any in its history. The problem is that many would-be leaders have left Microsoft to pursue other opportunities. As a result, investors must carefully contemplate whether investing in a company with such a rampant exodus of executive talent is worthy of a long-term investment. After all, when you buy a company you are buying not only the success of its products and services but also the leadership and vision of the company's executive team. If talented managers continue to flee Microsoft, investors must question the company's ability to execute at the level required to overcome the growing challenges the company faces in its core businesses.

--Written by Craig Gentry, chief investment strategist at Destination Wealth Management.

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