It's fashionable to bash Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) these days, but now it's time to let the world's largest software company sashay down the runway.
Mr. Softy did post better than expected results last night. Revenue climbed 25% to $16.2 million, with earnings per share soaring 55% to $0.62 a share. These are eye-rubbing tallies, but keep in mind that last year's fiscal first quarter was sandbagged. Include the revenue and net income deferrals related to Windows 7 upgrade and sales in anticipation of its debut last October, and revenue and earnings per share would have only grown by 13% and 19%, respectively.
Then again, the way folks have been hating on Microsoft these days -- Pacific Crest's Brendan Barnicle became the latest to downgrade the tech giant earlier this week -- one may be surprised to find Microsoft growing at all!
With or without the deferrals, analysts were still low-balling Microsoft's potential. Wall Street was looking for a profit of $0.55 a share on $15.8 billion in revenue.
Revenue grew in all five of Microsoft's divisions, but it's not perfect.
- Bing is growing market share -- and its deal to handle Yahoo!'s (Nasdaq: YHOO ) search can only help -- but Microsoft is still losing money in cyberspace. In fact, the division's operating loss actually widened.
- Microsoft claims that its Xbox 360 is gaining share, outselling Sony (NYSE: SNE ) and Nintendo (OTC BB: NTDOY.PK) to be the top console in each of the past four months. However, it's selling more consoles at lower prices. The industry in general has been declining for nearly two years.
- This is still a software company, as its Xbox-fueled entertainment division accounted for just 11% of the quarter's revenue and a mere 5% of the operating income.
Thankfully, its bread-and-butter software business is booming with the release of Windows 7 and Office 2010 over the past year. Microsoft also sees a "healthy and sustaining" refresh cycle for business PCs, despite fears that the cloud computing revolution will make corporate computer upgrades less necessary as the action moves to the server farms.
Windows Phone 7 remains a longshot to dent the established smartphone operating system space cornered by Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) , Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) , and Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM ) , but it's not as if Microsoft has to hit a homer there right away. As long as mobile platforms don't become the operating systems of choice in the future of computing, Microsoft's foot in the smartphone door is enough for now.
In short, Microsoft's health is better than worrywarts think, but it's going to take a few more catalysts to awaken the shares from its lost decade.
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