Microsoft investors antsy about Ballmer palaver -

Microsoft executives are due a grilling from shareholders as investors prepare to make sense of exactly what is going on at the company.

Mixed messages is an understatement: outgoing shy and retiring CEO Steve Ballmer first consolidated power by dismantling the powerful Windows group according to his whim, then abruptly announced he'd step down as soon as the next CEO is in place. Then the company bought Nokia.

The Wall Street Journal reports analysts are readying themselves for a crucial meeting Thursday, where Ballmer and other executives are tipped to face an onslaught of questions about confusing happenings in Redmond's Vole Hill.

Throw in relatively shakey financial results and the company's ailing plan to turn itself into a game-changing, paradigm-shifting hardware company - Microsoft is not a hardware company - and it is little surprise investors are edgy.

It is expected, the WSJ reveals, that the company will update analysts on its hunt for another CEO, take it to task over its smartphone and other hardware segments, and probe Redmond's plans about its $77 billion cash stockpile.

Ballmer's lasting legacy may be his unwaivering attempts to reshape Microsoft into a rival in the consumer space, biting at the ankles of Apple and Google, rather than as a software and services company. First with the Zune and now with the Surface, Ballmer hasn't been entirely successful. Indeed, the Surface was essentially a $900 million write-off, plagued by its image as an also-ran, a hefty price tag, clumsy marketing and unremarkable hardware.

Thursday should also bring with it a stock dividend increase. If this raises near the 15 percent mark, it could be a sign ValueAct Capital, a major Microsoft shareholder, is exerting its pressure as it looks for chunkier payouts from the company.