View Full Version : Even With All Its Profits, Microsoft Has a Popularity Problem


Admin Khan
07-25-2010, 02:08 PM
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MEASURED by profits, Microsoft trounces Apple and Google. In the most recent three months, Microsoft earned $4.52 billion, versus Apple’s $3.25 billion and Google’s $1.8 billion. But, dear investors, where is the love for this beaten-down company?
Frank X. Shaw, Microsoft’s vice president for corporate communications, recently tried a new tack to win respect. In a blog post on June 25 titled “Microsoft by the Numbers,” he compared Microsoft’s record in various business categories with that of competitors.
Unfortunately, by trying to argue that Microsoft is doing well in all areas, including those dominated by Apple and Google, Mr. Shaw fails to show Microsoft at its best. Lost from view is what arguably is Microsoft’s very best story — its transformation into a powerhouse supplier of the specialized software that meets the complex needs of large corporations, what the trade calls selling to “the enterprise.”
Microsoft’s enterprise software business alone is approaching the size of Oracle. But despite that astounding growth, Microsoft must accept that, fair or not, victories on the enterprise side draw about as much attention as being the No. 1 wholesale seller of plumbing supplies. Microsoft won’t receive the adoring attention that its chief rival draws with products like the iPad.
In a conversation earlier this month, Mr. Shaw explained what prompted him to write his post. “I noticed some pretty critical conversations going on in the technosphere among the technorati,” he said. “There’s a gap between that conversation — ‘the company is not doing well, period’ — and what the company is actually doing.”
In the blog, he writes, “With Windows 7, Office 2010, Bing, Xbox 360, Kinect, Windows Phone 7, in our cloud platform, and many other products, services and happy customers, 2010 is shaping up as a huge year for us.”
By encompassing just about every product category under the sun — and then calling out Apple and Google, of all targets — Mr. Shaw draws attention to Microsoft’s weak spots.
Bing, its search engine, attracted 21.4 million new users in one year, Mr. Shaw says. Very well, but he does not mention the following: in 2007, the company’s online services group lost $604 million; in 2008, $1.2 billion; and in 2009, the year of Bing’s introduction, $2.25 billion.
Mr. Shaw also points out that in its 2000 fiscal year, Microsoft’s revenue was $23 billion, and that it grew to $58.4 billion by 2009. He does not, however, go on to compare this growth with that of Apple and Google, whom he had just called upon to illustrate another point. But let’s call Apple back to the stage: from 2000 to 2009, when Microsoft’s revenue grew 153 percent, Apple’s grew 436 percent. (Google’s number, beginning from a tiny base in 2000, is too large for use as a fair comparison.)
Perhaps the most important numbers that Mr. Shaw did not include — the numbers that go a long way toward explaining the we-don’t-get-no-respect tone in his post — reflect the judgments of investors. Microsoft continues to suffer through its very own lost decade. On Thursday, Microsoft reported its strong quarterly earnings. But at the close on Friday, Microsoft’s stock was 55 percent below its price at the beginning of January 2000.
Apple also reported its quarterly results last week: the most Macs sold, ever; more than three million iPads sold — and its stock is now at $260, or 829 percent above its January 2000 price.
“Tech investors pay for growth,” says Sarah Friar, an analyst at Goldman Sachs, who believes that those investors do not appreciate the durability of Microsoft’s cash cows, Windows and Office. She has many positive things to say about Microsoft’s ability to innovate, pointing in particular to the robust sales of server and database software, which are now almost equal in size to Windows revenue.
Ms. Friar views Microsoft as a company that primarily sells to the enterprise. By contrast, Apple and Google are primarily selling to consumers. “How many companies are good at being an enterprise company and a consumer company at the same time?” she asks.
BRENDAN BARNICLE, a software analyst at Pacific Crest Securities, offers one explanation why Microsoft stubbornly believes it can sell to consumers as well as to corporate customers: Microsoft was able to do so in its early years, when its operating system software and then its Office productivity suite were bought by individuals as well as companies.
“Microsoft is used to having it all,” he says.
Mr. Barnicle is bullish on Microsoft stock, partly because he thinks the company hasn’t received credit for its almost-half-full glass: the 40 percent of its business that is not Windows or Office. He, too, praised its enterprise software business, formally labeled “Server and Tools,” as “an incredible business,” accounting, he said, for about 24 percent of the company’s revenue and with an operating margin of 40 percent.
Mr. Shaw points to the 150 million Windows 7 licenses sold in the eight months after its release last year. It’s an impressive figure; Macs, iPhones and iPads have a long way to go to catch up. But those Windows 7 sales include pent-up corporate demand for anything-but-Windows-Vista. So that figure doesn’t give investors what they want most: portents of entirely new growth.




Randall Stross is an author based in Silicon Valley and a professor of business at San Jose State University.Hi, I am the source
(http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/25/business/25digi.html?_r=1&ref=technology)