An Associated Press story drifting around the Intertubes today suggests that Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer’s personal earnings from the company fell around 6 percent in fiscal 2009. Even with that dip, the article estimated his total pay package at somewhere in the neighborhood of $1.28 million, so if nothing else Ballmer can cry himself to sleep on a soft, soft mountain of $100 bills.

Ballmer’s salary actually rose by 4 percent, to $665,833, even as his bonus was cut by 14 percent to $600,000. The bonus is tied to a compensation committee’s evaluation of the CEO’s performance, and could have paid him “up to 200 percent of his base salary, or about $1.3 million,” according to AP.

Microsoft’s executives as a collective have seen their salaries take a hit in 2009. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that a number of executive officers and division presidents, including Chief Operating Officer Kevin Turner, have seen their compensation packages tumble. Stephen Elop, the business division president, and Chief Financial Officer Chris Liddell represented brighter spots in the lineup — but both could have received more.

That is, if the economy and the PC industry hadn’t been doing their best imitations of a sinking ship. Despite the company’s soft financial numbers — last quarter, Microsoft reported a 17 percent decline in year-over-year revenue, to $13.10 billion — Microsoft’s sheer size seems to have insulated it from the economic ravages that have sent smaller companies spiraling for the bottom.

The salary numbers suggest, though, that Microsoft is facing its own internal pressures, which in turn puts even more weight on Redmond to succeed with its latest slate of software platforms, including Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2. In a San Francisco presentation Sept. 29, Ballmer suggested that a way for IT administrators and pros to escape the recessionary jungle would be to embrace a “new efficiency” by upgrading their infrastructure with these new applications, but time will tell whether cash-strapped shops will embrace that message.

Internally, there will be added pressure on Microsoft’s new endeavors, such as the retail stores, to perform at or above expectations. Rumors have also abounded this week concerning a Microsoft tablet PC code-named Courier, which would likely use Windows 7 as its operating system; I would bet that Microsoft will wait to see how Apple’s much-rumored tablet PC performs in the marketplace, and do an analysis of what works and what doesn’t, before releasing its own version.

After all, if recent history is any indication, Microsoft will be much less forgiving of projects that don’t perform strongly … at least until the recession is firmly in the rearview mirror.

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