Shares of Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT ) rose 5.34% last week and now rest at $33.49, The last time investors saw prices this high was for a few months during late 2007 and early 2008, before the financial crisis hit. Before that, shares hadn't been much above the $30 mark since 2001.
Year to date, shares of Microsoft are up more than 25%, making it the third best performing component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) in 2013. Only Walt Disney, which is up more than 30% this year, and Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ ) , which has risen 44.77%, have outperformed Microsoft. Furthermore, we have to go back to the third week of February to find the last time shares moved lower during a one-week trading period. So with shares setting new 52-week highs, should investors take their money and run now that they're likely to be in the green, or should they let it ride?
First off, one reason shares have performed so well in 2013 is that investor expectations were set so low that any good news, no matter how small, has seemed to push shares higher. The initial sales numbers for both Windows 8 and the Surface tablet were so poor that now anytime a report indicates that sales are holding firm or growing, the stock is going to pop.
But those low expectations may be coming to an end. Also just last week, a new analyst report indicated that Microsoft's cloud computing business unit may have been wildly undervalued. After company executive Curt Anderson recently said the unit had produced more than $1 billion in revenue annually, the analyst said estimates from research firms were much lower than that number.
More to come
Microsoft also recently announced that it will be releasing a new Xbox on May 21, and this is a portion of Microsoft's business that many seem to forget about. During the first quarter of 2013, Xbox revenue increased by $641 million, primarily because of higher Xbox Live revenue. When the new console emerges, we should see a healthy boost to revenue from both the device itself, and from having new customers sign into the online streaming platform.
Furthermore, as I noted, the release of Windows 8 was rather disappointing, but if we look at the lack of computer sales activity, we can easily understand why Windows has yet to perform well. And, if we believe, as many Hewlett-Packard and Dell shareholders do, that over the next two to three years personal computer sales will return to normal levels, Windows 8 sales should follow along nicely.
Finally, many experts point out that PC sales are down because consumers are switching to tablets. This idea seems to hold water, since tablet sales have gone up while PC sales have declined. But many observers also think that PC sales will eventually once again begin to rise, because while consumers can and do perform many daily activities on their tablet, the PC still rules the office and more intense workloads. We should also remember that while some think the Surface is overpriced, most reviews have stated that it's a solid tablet that can be used for work-related tasks or just for personal Web browsing.
So even if Windows 8 sales didn't bounce back if PC sales begin to gain traction, Microsoft has put itself in a position to benefit from either a full-on tablet takeover, or a world where PCs and tablets coexist together.
In my opinion, shareholders should continue holding onto their stock. Microsoft has a number of strong business units, so even though one may not perform, the others are likely to pick up the slack. But if all business units begin hitting on all cylinders, revenue and profits could skyrocket.
More Foolish insight
It's been a frustrating path for Microsoft investors, who've watched the company fail to capitalize on the incredible growth in mobile over the past decade. However, with the release of its own tablet, along with the widely anticipated Windows 8 operating system, the company is looking to make a splash in this booming market. In a new premium report on Microsoft, a Motley Fool analyst explains that while the opportunity is huge, so are the challenges. The report includes regular updates as key events occur, so make sure to claim a copy of this report now by clicking here.