Commentary

Microsoft Soars In The Cloud

With Microsoft’s head in the cloud, so also is investor sentiment as the company that rose to dominance on the ubiquity of its operating systems and workplace software programs continues to transform itself into an enterprise offering computing services — servers, storage, databases, networking, software, analytics, and more — over the Internet.

“The company’s flagship Azure cloud product recorded revenue growth of 89% in the fourth quarter ended June 30. Its shares rose nearly 4% in after-hours trading,” Reuters’ Salvador Rodriguez and Vibhuti Sharma report.

“The combination of the cloud, which is a megatrend that’s going to last for years to come, and the execution — this is a company that knows how to sell and be innovative — it’s hard to argue with anything here,” InvestorPlace.com analyst Tom Taulli tells them.

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“Microsoft’s traction in this market has catapulted its stock to all-time highs this year. Morgan Stanley analysts predicted in March that cloud computing could push Microsoft to a $1 trillion market cap, joining Apple and Amazon in the race to that astronomical figure,” reports Seth Fiegerman for CNN Tech.

“The 43-year-old company struggled for years as it wrestled with a slow-growing personal-computer business, which hampered its Windows operating-system franchise. Microsoft was late to tectonic industry shifts, including mobile devices and web search,” observes Jay Greene for the Wall Street Journal.

“But the company has reversed its fortunes, largely under the direction of chief executive Satya Nadella, by focusing on the booming cloud-computing market. Earlier this week, Walmart Inc. announced a five-year deal to use Microsoft’s cloud services,” Greene continues.

In case you’re wondering, former CEO Steve Ballmer harbors no hard feelings about Nadella’s success. Whatsoever. Ballmer is Microsoft’s largest shareholder, after all. 

“We started this thing called Azure and Office 365, and my successor Satya has taken the thing to very much new heights,” Ballmer said on Bloomberg’s “The David Rubenstein Show: Peer-to-Peer Conversations,” earlier this year, as CNBC’s Jordan Novet reports. “The only change to reposition the company really came when Satya started.”

“The law of large numbers is kicking in,” Evercore ISI analyst Kirk Materne tells Novet in another story, referring to Azure's growth. “The base is getting bigger. It is growing faster than AWS [Amazon Web Services] did when it was at a similar size. This is probably a $9 billion business growing at more than 80%.”

Overall, the “core cloud business is a $60 billion-a-year market, which grew by 50% in the first quarter of this year, according to Synergy Research Group. Amazon holds a 33% share, unchanged since the end of 2015. Over the same span, Microsoft’s share climbed from 7% to 13%, and Google’s doubled to 6%,” writes Steve Lohr for the New York Times.

“John Dinsdale, chief analyst at Synergy Research, predicted that the cloud giants will get bigger and capture a steadily rising share of corporate technology spending — especially as they add new capabilities, like machine learning and artificial intelligence, to their services,” Lohr adds. “The information technology market is going to increasingly gravitate towards a small number of hyperscale cloud providers,” Dinsdale tells him.

But the Seattle-based company’s resurgence isn’t entirely dependent on the cloud. 

The Verge’s Tom Warren reports that revenue for its Surface tablet was up 25% year-over-year this quarter to $1.1 billion. Gaming revenue increased 39%; Xbox software and services saw revenue growth of 36%. LinkedIn revenue rose 37% to $1.4 billion. Search advertising revenue from Bing was up 17% “thanks to higher revenue per search and an increase in search volume.”

As for that old standby, Office 365, it “now has 31.4 million subscribers, and Office consumer and cloud services revenue has grown 8% as a result. On the commercial side, Office and cloud services revenue grew 10% thanks to Office 365 commercial growth of 3%,” Warren writes.

Two decades ago, the forebears of Word, Excel and their siblings were shipped on as many as 55 floppy disks. Just another reason to not invest in the bookshelf business.

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