Microsoft reported increased revenues for the second fiscal quarter, but analysts suggest that Microsoft’s success in 2010 depends on a broader tech refresh
Microsoft reported revenues of $19.02 billion (£11.9bn) for the second fiscal quarter of 2010, representing a 14 percent increase from the same quarter a year ago, when a massive recession battered the earnings of both the company and much of the tech industry. The company attributed much of that rise to sales of Windows 7, its new operating system launched on 22 October.
Microsoft issued a statement ahead of its 28 January earnings call stating that some 60 million Windows 7 licenses had so far been sold. Revenues for its Windows & Windows Live Division climbed year-over-year from $4.06 billion (£2.51bn) to $6.9 billion (£4.3bn).
The company reported net income of $6.66 billion (£4.13bn), operating income of $8.51 billion (£5.27bn), and diluted earnings per share of $0.74 (46p), representing respective increases of 60 percent, 43 percent and 57 percent year-over-year. However, some of its divisions also saw their revenue fall, with Microsoft Business Division reporting a year-over-year decline from $4.88 billion (£3.02bn) to $4.74 billion (£2.94bn), and its Entertainment and Devices Division tumbling from $3.25 billion (£2.01bn) to $2.9 billion (£1.79bn).
During a 28 January earnings call, Microsoft chief financial officer Peter Klein suggested that the uptick in revenues was due largely to “strong consumer demand for Windows 7 and PCs.” However, he noted, “We have not seen a return to enterprise software growth.”
Bill Koefoed, Microsoft’s general manager of Investor Relations, also suggested on the call that “we have not seen a return to enterprise growth.” Within a business-spending context, he added, “conditions from last quarter remain unchanged” with “weak business PC sales” despite strength in the consumer segment.
Microsoft had found itself battered by the global recession, reporting a 17 percent year-over-year revenue decline for the fourth fiscal quarter of 2009 and a 14 percent decline for the first fiscal quarter of 2010. However, Microsoft executives and Wall Street analysts seemed somewhat satisfied at the time with the latter number, as it was stronger than earlier estimates.
In a statement before the 23 October earnings call announcing the numbers for the first fiscal quarter of 2010, former Microsoft chief financial officer Chris Liddell suggested that the company had “maintained our cost discipline, which allowed us to drive strong earnings performance despite continued tough overall economic conditions.”
Part of that cost discipline involved cutting 5,000 employees through the course of 2009.
That quarter, Microsoft also reported that it would defer $1.47 billion (£911m) in revenue due to the Windows 7 Upgrade Option program and sales of Windows 7 to OEMs and retailers before the operating system’s 22 October launch date. Had those figures been incorporated into Microsoft’s overall tally, they would have raised Microsoft’s overall quarterly revenues to $14.39 billion (£8.92bn), for a year-over-year decline of a comparatively softer 4 percent.
Instead, that income found its way onto the balance sheet for the most recent quarter, which ended 31 December 2009, where deferred revenue grew from $1.47 (£911m) billion to $1.71 billion (£1.06bn).
Liddell had cautioned during the 23 October earnings call that “Windows division revenue will be in line with overall PC growth.” He also suggested that hesitation among CIOs could lead to a more gradual tech refresh for both the enterprise and SMBs (small- to medium-sized businesses) into the years beyond 2010. With that in mind, Microsoft was staying “reasonably cautious” about the rate of adoption for Windows 7, despite some apparently good early reviews of the operating system.
Around the time of that earnings announcement, a number of analysts suggested that a business-oriented tech refresh could start in earnest sometime in 2010.
“It looks like the Win7 inspired upgrade cycle can start in late 2010 and run through early 2013,” Katherine Egbert, an analyst with Jefferies & Co., wrote in an Oct. 12 report. “We expect new hardware purchases to precede the software upgrades by about 6 months.”
According to research firm Net Applications, some 92.21 percent of PCs currently run Windows, followed by 5.11 percent using the Mac OS, 1.02 percent using Linux, and 0.53 percent relying on Java ME. Of those PCs running Windows, some 67.77 percent continue to run the nearly decade-old Windows XP, while 17.87 percent run Windows Vista and 5.71 percent use Windows 7.
Microsoft still expects a broad-based enterprise and SMB refresh to take place, despite the current flatness in business software growth.
“We expect the tech refresh to begin this calendar year,” Peter Klein said during the earnings call, with sales increasing “gradually over a couple of years.”