Why the Fate of Microsoft Stock Hinges on Windows 8

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Any hope of jolting Microsoft stock out of years of stagnation lies with the success of its latest attempts to capture a slice of mobile computing.

Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) is only a bit player in mobile, currently dominated by devices running Apple Inc.'s (Nasdaq: AAPL) iOS and Google Inc.'s (Nasdaq: GOOG) Android. That's why the company now has a new mobile strategy, with the focal point being Windows 8, the latest version of Microsoft's dominant computer operating system.

Windows 8 is optimized for the mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones that have stolen the thunder from traditional PCs, a market Microsoft long dominated.

Microsoft has also ventured into mobile hardware with its new Surface tablet.

Now Microsoft is betting that the Surface tablet will turn heads and that Windows 8 will put it back in the mobile OS game by luring hardware makers away from Android.

"I don't control the macro-environment, but there's a huge opportunity in the explosion of devices," Microsoft Chief Financial Officer Peter Klein told Reuters. "There's demand for compelling devices and a connected set of cloud experiences. That's what Windows 8 is all about."

The Redmond, WA-based company must succeed in mobile to secure a new source of growth capable of moving Microsoft stock out of the doldrums where it has languished for more than a decade. The current 10-year return for MSFT is -6.39% -- yes, negative. Rolling back to November 2001 puts the return on Microsoft stock at -15.75%.

Owners of Microsoft stock can only cross their fingers and hope the bet pays off.

How Mobile Success Could Help Microsoft Stock

Microsoft had little choice but to shift its attention to mobile computing. That's where the money is in tech today.

Apple's profits have soared from about $2 billion in FY 2006 to $41.7 billion in FY 2012, almost entirely on the strength of the iPhone and iPad.

More recently, Korean-based Samsung Electronics (PINK: SSNLF) has emerged as the dominant Android hardware maker, with its profits rocketing 91% in the September quarter on strong sales of its Galaxy series of smartphones.

Sales growth in mobile devices has soared over the past few years. Research firm Gartner expects combined global sales of tablets and smartphones to reach 821 million units this year and rise 46% to pass the 1.2 billion mark next year - triple that of global PC sales.

So far Microsoft hasn't been able to grab much of this market, with its Windows operating systems on just 2.4% of smartphones, and about 4% of tablets.

But these projections by research firm IDC see that changing with Windows 8...

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