Just a year ago, Microsoft (MSFT 0.06%) was considered by some analysts to be one of the Dow's laggards. Things have changed, however, and it has assumed a new status as an outperformer. The company's sustained growth shows that it is still a power in the tech sector. Its Microsoft Azure Intelligent System Service, the steady growth of Xbox sales, and the improving fortunes of Office 365 will ensure that the company continues to be the stock market's darling into the future.

A new kind of warehouse
Microsoft has come to the conclusion that its embedded software can't hide from the World Wide Web anymore. Consequently, the company has developed a new product called Microsoft Azure Intelligent Systems Service. It is like a warehouse for sorting the data flowing into your system. Since it has the capacity for analysis, it operates like Big Data processing machines. There are prospects in the sector. IDC predicts the market for the Big Data sector will grow 27% per year to $32.4 billion by 2017. The service could make Microsoft's platform more unique.        

The Xbox is enjoying a steady growth
Microsoft had been tight-lipped regarding the health of its Xbox One sales. Its third quarter results have proven that the product is now a considerable contributor to Microsoft's results. Microsoft sold in 2 million Xbox consoles, including 1.2 million Xbox One consoles. The company is partnering with Channel 4 to
create engaging interactive experiences for the product. Signs point to the product as a dependable source of Microsoft's income. Sales of the game console hardware are forecast to jump 14% to 32 million units worldwide, says Strategy Analytics.

Office 365 is showing improvements
Microsoft is evolving. Its new slogan is "mobile first, cloud first." In the cloud segment, the company is encouraging Microsoft Office users to migrate toward the web-based Office 365. In the third quarter, Office 365 Home had 4.4 million subscribers. The product's revenue more than doubled. Microsoft could make further gains going forward.
Cisco predicts the cloud IP traffic will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 35% from 2012 to 2017.

Though Microsoft's Xbox One is now a considerable contributor to the company's results, the product still has to contend with Sony's (SONY -2.28%) PlayStation 4. Sony's purchase of Gaikai in 2012 saw it take a shortcut toward establishing a cloud framework for the product, which was recently unveiled in the form of PlayStation Now. Sony expects an upside. According to Gartner, the video game console market will hit $55 billion in 2015. 

Critics say that Amazon.com's (AMZN -0.47%) Fire TV can't be a viable video gaming platform, but Amazon has been working with game developers to improve the product. To make it attractive, Amazon made it far cheaper at $99 than the Xbox One at $499. Amazon expects the gaming sector to be a profitable one in the near future. According to Cisco, the global online video users are expected to grow from 1.1 billion in 2012 to nearly 2 billion by 2017. 

Foolish takeaway
Microsoft has become an outperformer. It is no longer the dog that many flogged just a year ago. The growth of its Azure Intelligent Systems Services, the rise in Xbox sales, and the improving fortunes of Office 365 will enable it deliver market-beating returns in the next few years.