Microsoft's Lost Decade
Comment of the Day

September 11 2012

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Microsoft's Lost Decade

Thanks to a subscriber for this interesting article from Vanity Fair focusing on how Microsoft fell victim to its own success while Apple, under Steve Jobs, regained its aura as an innovator. Here is a section:
In Walter Isaacson's authorized biography Steve Jobs, Jobs acknowledged Ballmer's role in Microsoft's problems: “The company starts valuing the great salesmen, because they're the ones who can move the needle on revenues, not the product engineers and designers. So the salespeople end up running the company.… [Then] the product guys don't matter so much, and a lot of them just turn off. It happened at Apple when [John] Sculley came in, which was my fault, and it happened when Ballmer took over at Microsoft. Apple was lucky and it rebounded, but I don't think anything will change at Microsoft as long as Ballmer is running it.”

Eoin Treacy's view When your business depends on innovation it's nice to be able to balance the books but that should never be the raison d'etre of the company. While Microsoft's inability to be first to market with a new product has made headlines it is by no means the only company to have lost a position of pre-eminence. The story of Daimler is fairly similar when compared to BMW. With the latter engineers remain central to the business, in the former they are often overruled by accountants. The performance of the respective shares bears this out.

Microsoft might not be setting the world alight with its products but it has utility-like cash flows and a solid record of dividend increases which support its 2.59% yield. The share has held mostly above its 200-day MA since May and a sustained move below $30 would be required to question medium-term scope for continued upside.

Apple is still the most innovative major technology company around. However it posted a downside key reversal yesterday following an impressive rally and extended the decline today. Potential for an additional reversion towards the mean has increased while a sustained move below $600 would signal more than temporary technical deterioration.

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