Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT) last-quarter results came in higher than Wall Street's expectations, suggesting that the company may be underappreciated. EPS went up by about 17% year-over-year. Revenue came in at $18.5 billion, 16% more than the reported revenue during the same quarter a year ago. This growth was in a quarter where Windows sales dipped by 7%. There's a story from these results. This story could prove vital in making long-term investment decisions on Microsoft.
Microsoft can still perform even if Windows doesn't
Over the last two years, many investors have been skeptical about the chances of Microsoft remaining relevant in the IT world. The skepticism is largely due to the rapid growth of the mobile segment of the tech sector. The recent Windows 8 failure made the skepticism deeper. But, Microsoft isn't all about Windows.
There's an ad business growing somewhere
During the last quarter, revenue from Microsoft's devices and consumer segment grew $301 million compared to the same period last year. During the earnings call, the company's general manager of investor relations said that the growth in this segment was driven by an increase in Microsoft's advertising revenue, as well as an increase in the volume of its online marketplaces, with ad sales growing by 47%.
Over the past year, Microsoft's search engine has been on the rise both in the U.S. and globally. In the U.S., where the battle is arguably the fiercest, Bing had 18% of the total search market, up from 17.8% in August. That's an impressive figure considering that Bing had only 16% of total search queries in the U.S. at the start of the year.
Moreover, considering the fact that the search industry pacesetter, Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL) has had a relatively flat search market share in the U.S. this year, you can appreciate the growth of Microsoft's ad business. Google started the year with 67% of the total search queries in the U.S., and as of the end of September it had 66.9% of the market.
Google's massive position makes it difficult to appreciate the growth of Microsoft's ad business. So, it's necessary to examine other ad players to understand better. The chart below shows the worldwide percentage market share of search engines from 2008-2012
Besides Google, which is off the chart, there is a noticeable trend here. Over the period the chart covers, every other search engine has seen its market share drop. Perhaps they just can't stand the heat from Google. But, Bing has grown from near zero to 3.34%.
From here, you can deduce that Microsoft is seemingly preparing itself to give Google a fight. But, considering the fact that Microsoft was the all-in-all of the PC space before, it wouldn't be wrong to project an ad business battle between Google and Microsoft sometime in future.
Its commercial segment is also strong
During the last quarter, Microsoft's commercial segment turned in about $11.2 billion in revenue, 10% up from the same quarter a year ago. Reading through the company's report, it's apparent that cloud services and enterprise services were key to growth in this segment. The company's cloud services revenue grew $261 million, a 103% increase, while enterprise services revenue grew $93 million, representing a 9% increase compared to the same period a year ago.
Microsoft should continue seeing impressive growth in this segment. I'm referring to the huge potential that lurks around its Azure business, which grew by about 100% year-over-year during the quarter. The need and popularity of cloud computing is constantly on the rise, and with Microsoft's experience in satisfying the enterprise space, it's going to be easy for Microsoft to get a good portion of the market. Moreover, the company's strategy is a good one -- a Try and Use model. This should be an effective strategy in a business where the players are big (i.e., Amazon, Google, SalesForce, etc.). This underappreciated segment contributed over 60% to Microsoft's revenue during the last quarter.
The growth in this segment underlines Microsoft's strength in the IT commercial market. In recent times, when comparing Microsoft to other tech giants, assessments are usually pigeonholed, which hides the attractiveness of the company, judging only by the trend in the mobile market and how Microsoft isn't doing well in it. This has printed a picture in investors' minds that Microsoft isn't the good investment option it was a few years ago. But, what's forgotten is that Microsoft has built an empire in the tech world that, even if it's struggling in one part of the business, there are other segments that still make it strong.