Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) annual shareholder meeting, held in Redmond, Wa., in front of about 450 shareholders, turned out to be the usual fare from CEO Steve Ballmer. The "usual," at it relates to Ballmer, is the Microsoft executive fighting back yawns as he discusses strategic direction and answers questions.
As a shareholder, you don't need your CEO leading group cheers, but with all that's been going in the Microsoft camp of late, a little excitement is called for. The rollout of the Windows 8 OS, early indications of smartphone sales success running its new OS, and Microsoft's own tablet hitting the shelves should be enough to perk up the dreariest of CEOs.
Reasons to ignore Ballmer's blase attitude
Microsoft is in a time of transition, from selling strictly software services to aiming at becoming a cloud computing specialist, hardware provider, and mobile services leader. As Ballmer put it, Microsoft is "innovating on the seam between software and hardware." It's a transition Ballmer concedes should have happened sooner to better compete against industry leaders Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) and Google (NASDAQ: GOOG). The delay hurt, as Apple and Google continue to pull away from the pack.
But even accounting for an admittedly late start, Microsoft is showing signs of success. For instance, phones running Microsoft's OS are selling at four times the pace they did at this time last year. Windows 8 licenses are at 40 million in its first month. That's tracking well ahead of 2009's Windows 7 launch.
Though Ballmer won't release numbers for Windows phone sales, one of Microsoft's primary smartphone partners, Nokia (NYSE:NOK)and its Lumia line, are selling out at both Amazon.com and AT&T's online stores. Samsung and HTC also carry Windows 8 OS phones.
There's no denying Microsoft stock is in a funk. Though its stock price is up 9% in the past year, and 4% year to date, shareholders are understandably anxious as Microsoft's share price meanders. At $228 billion in market cap, Microsoft is one of the largest tech companies in the world, and it's time to start acting like it (again).
The licensing of Windows 8 is on a record pace, smartphones running Microsoft's OS are selling at a nice clip, and the Surface tablet is off and running. So, what are investors waiting for? If it's a rousing, motivational speech from the Microsoft CEO, that's going to be a long wait.
Instead, focus on Microsoft's $66.6 billion in cash, a recently renewed dividend yield of 3.4%, and several new products on top of its existing, multiple lines of revenue. Microsoft is poised for a run, it just needs a swift kick to get it started. Whether the nudge comes from Windows 8 licenses, smartphone OS adoptions, or Microsoft Surface tablets doesn't matter; it won't take much.