The path to profitability is often fraught with danger and deceit, romance and bloodshed, evil creatures from molten pits, and sentient forests overrun with giant spiders... oh, wait, hold on, I'm not writing about Time Warner's (NYSE:TWX) Lord Of The Rings movies.

Instead, my subject today is a little less exotic but nonetheless interesting and significant. -- a joint venture between Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) and General Electric's (NYSE:GE) NBC unit -- has generated some net income, a feat it had yet to achieve in its eight-year existence. The profit came during the site's fourth quarter. Unfortunately, the release doesn't say what the actual dollar figure of the black ink is or what quarterly revenue it was derived from. We do see that gross revenue for the fiscal year is equal to approximately $45 million, which is stated as being a record.

It really isn't vital to know what the exact numbers are. To me, the crux of the issue is that this event is yet another validation of the New Economy. We went through the Internet bubble, companies came and went, the froth was blown off the top, and what remains beneath are businesses that may actually survive. Concerns such as Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) and Yahoo! (NASDAQ:YHOO) are not only still around but also thriving for the most part. (They still have their work cut out for them, to be sure.) Of course, I'm not lumping anywhere near these companies in terms of its performance. My point is that the Internet continues to prove itself as an important medium for creativity and commerce. (And let me admit something: I wasn't necessarily bullish all the time on the prospects of Yahoo! and Amazon, so this nascent profitability thing for is yet another eye-opener for yours truly.)

For Microsoft and General Electric, this profit is rather small in comparison with their operations -- we're talking amoeba small, maybe even tinier than that. So, once again, this is more of an intellectual win, and even then, it is more relevant to Microsoft, a company that wants to diversify into areas not dependent on PC software. Sure, the Windows and Office franchises bring in a lot of greenbacks, but it's important to develop new revenue streams to ameliorate the cycles that find Dell (NASDAQ:DELL) and Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ) not selling as many computers. To that end, the company is focusing a lot of its energies on important areas such as its Xbox system, a pocket media device, and something that Alyce Lomax says might get under your skin.

How performs in the future is anybody's guess. Maybe this will be its one and only profit (I sincerely doubt that, however). As Microsoft matures, it must continue to branch out in all areas of media and technology to bring in the cash and to support its still relatively new dividend mind-set. Let's hope Steve Ballmer can continue to find good uses for that cash for the benefit of his shareholders, who are as legion as arrows flying through the air on a Tolkien battlefield.

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Fool contributor Steven Mallas owns stock in General Electric.