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Microsoft Reports First-Ever Quarterly Loss, But Some Analysts See Relief in Sight Next Quarter...

Listening to NPR this morning, I heard the news that the company is reporting its first-ever quarterly loss in 26 years in business. The loss of six cents per share stems from MS’s decision to write off $6.2 B from its unhappy acquisition of online advertising service aQuantive, which failed to deliver income, or make inroads against Google’s enormously successful AdWords. According to this Associated Press story, ad revenues account for only four percent of Microsoft’s overall revenue, and most of its sales still come from the Office Suite, and Windows desktop and server operating systems. Without the write-down, earnings per share were $0.73, four cents per share higher than the same quarter in 2011. This would have beat analysts’ expectations of $0.62 per share by a pretty hefty $0.11 (about 15 percent, in fact).

What really caught my interest was the offhand remark near the end of the story that MS executives expect similar or better results for the next quarter, owing at least in part to an uptick in revenues expected following the general availability (GA) date for Windows 8 on October 26, 2012 with Windows Server 2012 to follow sometime shortly thereafter (there isn’t much of 2012 left once October comes and goes). I’m interested and a little baffled to learn that MS is expecting the Windows 8 release to help with revenues and earnings, given that the company won’t forecast sales for its new Surface tablet, and that customer reaction to Windows 8 has been mixed at best, and tepid or worse from business users.

I guess there’s a lot hanging on the upcoming OS releases: more than I had thought and perhaps more than MS has a right to expect. Recent coverage of MS sales and business activity has regularly cited that buyers are holding off PC purchases in anticipation of Windows 8, so presumably this means a bump in sales is forecast once new PCs with Windows 8 pre-installed become available upon GA release of the product. My personal best guess is that some brave souls will be hardy enough to buy Windows 8 PCs, but that a great many — especially business buyers — will continue to order units with the popular, stable, and well-understood Windows 7 pre-installed instead.

At any rate, we don’t have too long to wait to find out which set of expectations will be met, and which ones dashed. GA date (10/26/2012) is only 14 weeks away as I write this blog. That’s just 90 days out from today. Stay tuned for more news and musings on the upcoming Windows 8 release right here.

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