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If Windows 8 is a flop, however, it will increase the pressure on Ballmer. Although Microsoft is far larger than when Ballmer became CEO nearly 13 years ago, the company’s stock has lost nearly half its value as Apple, Google and Amazon steered computing in a new direction. Restless shareholders could start clamoring for Ballmer’s ouster if Windows 8 doesn’t shake up the state of the technology market as dramatically as Ballmer envisions.

Microsoft shares fell two cents Thursday to close at $27.88.

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Liedtke reported from San Francisco. Svensson reported from New York.