The article is a critique of Ballmer, and the critique is deserved. However, the stock chart would look this way even if Bill Gates had been calling the shots this decade.
See my previous posts about Gates’ failed tablet PC vision. Look at Gates’ speeches and “visions” from CES keynotes, see how late they were to the web, etc. (In fact, only their monopoly position pulled them out of the grave mistake they’d made ignoring the web for so long.)
They fumbled around for years, but Microsoft had (and still has) Windows and Office, that’s it. There was never anything in Gates’ head that was going to change this. Heck, most of his visions are embarrassing. You can plumb Steve Jobs quotes from 20 years ago for nuggets of wisdom, you plumb Gates’ quotes for punchlines. The writing was on the wall, so Gates left.
I’m not saying another CEO couldn’t do something better for Microsoft–clearly Ballmer is not the guy–but it’s ridiculous to think it would be Gates. If he came back it’d be like Michael Dell coming back to Dell. His one way of thinking, and reliance on non-changing conditions (which of course do change), would expose him as having been a good man at the right time back then, but nothing more.