Ballmer is paid significantly less than other high-tech CEOs who, according to the Board's analysis to the SEC, average $1.4 million in base salary and $4.5 million in cash bonus with the potential to increase that bonus to $14.4 million if they can bring their companies enough success to justify it.
Ballmer makes far less than the four other top executive officers at Microsoft – whose compensation ranges between $3.5 million and $9.3 million.
The board isn't making a case to raise his salary; it's explaining to the SEC why, despite believing Ballmer is "underpaid for his role and performance," it pays the boss such a pittance at Ballmer's own request and because "his personal wealth is tied directly to Microsoft's value."
Other tech-company CEOs have made the same choice, of course – ostentatiously, more as a way to signal they are already so rich they couldn't be bothered to cash any check a company board could pay, and so close to omnipotence that large bonuses would disappear in contrast with the increasing wealth they could reap simply by inflating the company's stock with one breath from their mighty lungs.
Steve Jobs' salary was $1 at Apple for a long time, by the way, not that his is the first name that comes to mind when the topic of narcissistic delusions of omnipotence come up.
Is Ballmer underpaid? In salary, compared to other execs, sure.
If his compensation really depended on the value he derives for the company, the board should probably be asking him to pay them – and a lot more than $600 grand per year.
Microsofties always professed to resent their reputation as the Evil Empire, but the degree to which customers publicly hated on the company while continuing to buy its products was always a good indication of how strong and stable its power really was.
Now, when sites like TechRepublic ask whether Google and Apple have taken over Microsoft's place in the Evil pantheon, it's taken as whimsical phenomenology, not subversive provocation. In its "who do you trust" poll on mobile technology, Microsoft didn't even show up as an option in a choice between Apple and Google.
As far back as 2007 – barely a year after Gates left day-to-day management of Evil to Ballmer – analysts were already asking overtly "Is Apple the new Microsoft?"