I did something I haven't done in a while. I read a few items on Robert Scoble's weblog. I used to read his stuff more often, but since he's become Microsoft's voice in the blog world, I've found it a bit hard to stomach most of the time. It's not Robert that bothers me, he's a great guy. It's the effect that Microsoft appears to have had on him. I think he's forgotten what it's like on the outside already.


Anyway, I couldn't help but to notice something he said that can't really go unchallenged. Err, I mean "uncorrected." He's clearly wrong. :-)

In this post he says:

On the plane last night I met a social worker who owned Microsoft stock. Lady is retired. 75 years old. What happens if I say something that gets us hit with a billion dollar fine? It comes out of her pocket. The $50 billion dollars in our investment accounts doesn't belong to Bill Gates or Steve Ballmer or me. It belongs to her. Think about that.


According to my sources, Bill Gates himself owns roughly 1.1 billion shares of Microsoft. And according to Microsoft's Investor Relations site:

As of October 31, 2003, there were 10,812,468,881 shares of Microsoft common stock outstanding.

Let's see, that's approximately 10% of the company that Mr. Bill owns.

Saying that the "$50 billion dollars in our investment accounts doesn't belong to Bill Gates" is wrong on several levels. Bill Gates actually "owns" $5 billion of that cash, doesn't he? Scoble is trying to imply that Bill is not an investor. Not only is he an investor in Microsoft, he is the single biggest individual investor in Microsoft.


On the plus side, he partially redeems himself by being honest about Microsoft and security.

One reason I don't like promising fixes, though, is cause we don't have much, if any, credibility left when discussing security. So, any promises would ring hollow.

No shit?

+1 for stating the obvious. A lot of folks higher up in Microsoft that probably wouldn't be so honest (you know, stating the obvious and all) in public.

Perhaps Bill also generates a reality distortion field, but one of a very different nature than Steve Jobs.

Don't even get me started on his notion of XP service pack #2 helping with Windows security in a big way. What about all the Win98 and Win2K users out there?

Longhorn might be delayed until they figure out how to fix the security problems it already has? Great. That means they've designed yet another OS with a poor security model. As if good security as a requirement is somehow so new that it came up after Longhorn was designed. How long have Microsoft's OSes been used by businesses in network environments again?

Posted by jzawodn at November 22, 2003 06:11 PM

Reader Comments
# Charles said:

A stock analyst stunned me with an observation about tech stocks, MSFT in particular, "I'll start buying when the insiders stop selling." As long as it's more profitable for BillG and SteveB to sell MSFT stock rather than hold it, that is a signal the stock isn't long-term profitable, and a sign to dump it. BillG has repeatedly sold big blocks of MSFT in order to shift it into other investments, like Home Depot and big pharmaceutical companies. Ballmer and even Allen have sold big blocks too.

on November 22, 2003 10:25 PM
# rr said:

Call that diversification. Regardless whether you think your company's stock will go up or down, having almost all your net worth in company stock is foolish. Just ask former Enron employees.

on November 22, 2003 10:52 PM
# rr said:

Although, that doesn't really apply to founders since they (a) can't sell a whole lot without having it interpreted negatively (as here), and (b) can diversify enough to be set for life without making much of a dent in their total holdings.

on November 22, 2003 10:58 PM
# rr said:

Oh, and his general point about who owns MSFT is correct if not 100% accurate. 15% of the outstanding shares are owned by insiders and 5% owners. That leaves 85% to John Q. Public.

on November 22, 2003 11:04 PM
# Aleksi said:

Microsoft is having monopoly on homeOS market, but that's not bad thing, i mean that if we had a lot of different OS's in market, then there would be more incompitable programs for your OS. Rather have bad OS with lot of programs than good OS without any programs.

on November 23, 2003 05:15 AM
# Sterling Hughes said:

I think being at any large company generates a distortion field. Yahoo employees seem to think that Yahoo is a technological marvel, not a marketing company that is technologically glued together by spit and gum (well, depends on the yahooligan, I guess). [*] I know when I was at Microsoft, I got the same distortion field, "If really smart people think X, and constantly say X, then I probably should too."

[*] Just drawing a contrast, certainly not insulting Yahoo's technilogical accomplishments. ;-)

on November 23, 2003 05:39 AM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:

Sterling, I don't know about you but I really don't think of Yahoo as a techonology company. We're a media company. Just look at where our money comes from and the fact that we have a Hollywood CEO now.

Technology-wise, Yahoo is a small player.

on November 23, 2003 07:41 AM
# Mr. SE said:

Insiders sell stock all the time. Look at the shitloads of stock Dell sells.

on November 23, 2003 10:27 AM
# Sam said:

Gates has had a long-public plan to diversify his holdings by continually selling large blocks of MSFT stock. Your broker is smart... you should wait to buy MSFT until the big inside selling is complete. It will be hard for the stock to climb with that much negative force on the stock. But I don't think this necessarily means they have a negative long-term outlook on MSFT... like other posters have pointed out, diversification is smart.

on November 23, 2003 01:09 PM
# Jason said:

Don't you have somthing else to do than complain?

on November 25, 2003 01:39 AM
# Dave Winer said:

Jeremy that's mean vulgar. Scoble's point was clear, Microsoft is a public company. It's not bullshit, and it's not lies -- it's true.

on November 25, 2003 03:28 AM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:

Jason, don't you have something better to do than read my complaining? :-)

on November 25, 2003 08:12 AM
# Randy Charles Morin said:

Scoble didn't say that some of it doesn't from Gates pocket. Scoble said that it comes from Jane Doe's pocket, of which he's 85% correct. You can't call him a liar, when he's 85% correct. That's just dumb!

on November 25, 2003 02:59 PM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:


10% of it is Bill's. 0.0001% of it is Jane Doe's.

on November 25, 2003 03:04 PM
# Rich Salz said:

Sad how many computer folks can't do math. :(
Your post is right on target. I stopped reading when he claimed to believe that there really was vigorous competition in the desktop market. I occasionally miss the insights, but it's not worth the bullshit factor. Power corrupts, Redmond corrupts absolutely?

on November 25, 2003 07:21 PM
# Robert Scoble said:

Rich: Steve Jobs would disagree with you that there's not vigorous competition on the desktop. So would the guy I just had dinner with (he's part of the Chandler team -- open source email and calendar system).

But, you can keep saying we don't have a competitive market. Maybe I should take you into an Apple store and show you around?

on November 25, 2003 10:20 PM
# Rich Salz said:

Fighting over single-digit percentages isn't vigorous competition (see for example
http://www.pcworld.com/news/article/0,aid,112840,00.asp which says MSFT had 93.8%). Please don't try to claim otherwise, because I will come to believe that Robert Scoble is either very stupid or a very bad liar.

on November 26, 2003 02:13 PM
# Robert Scoble said:

Rich, depends on how you look at it.

If you take just Windows XP versus, say, Mac OSX, the percentages aren't as disperate as you'd like them to be. The problem is the installed base.

But, OK, we are dominant. Is that what you want me to say? It doesn't take away from the fact that we DO have vigorous competition and that we CAN'T behave like a traditional monopoly, say, like the 1860s Central Pacific which had absolutely NO competition for the San Francisco to Chicago railroad business.

By the way, that's a funny link. Silicon Valley was started with monopoly money. Leland Stanford was a Vice President with the Central Pacific. Stanford's university (funded with gains from that monopoly) directly started HP, Cisco, Yahoo, Apple, Excite, and many other companies in Silicon Valley.

Speaking of which: is Google not real competition for Microsoft? Why are Apple's G5's sold out if everyone is being forced to "buy Microsoft?" Why is IBM spending billions in Linux if they don't think they can make significant markets.

Oh, and one million people have bought Tivos. How many have bought Media Center PCs? I can tell you very few.

on November 26, 2003 07:57 PM
# Tom said:

All i can say is what microsoft does and says are two different thing's. (My Opinion on Experience with them.)

on July 7, 2007 09:55 AM
# PricklyNettles said:

How has noone corrected this in 6 (almost exactly) years ;-)

#7 RR : "Oh, and his general point about who owns MSFT is correct if not 100% accurate. 15% of the outstanding shares are owned by insiders and 5% owners. That leaves 85% to John Q. Public."

15 + 5 = 20 last time I checked, thus 80% to John Q

on December 1, 2009 02:02 PM
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