If Apple’s recent financial report had a musical theme, you might choose Tchaikovski’s 1812. But Microsoft’s just-revealed quarterly stats might incline toward something somber from Handel … they’re not looking cheery.
The lead figures are all trending downwards, in fact: Revenues were a huge-sounding $12.92 billion for the quarter ending September 30, but that represents a 14% decline on last year’s figure. Operating income took an even bigger hit, down 25% on the 2008 figure to $4.48 billion. And the overall effect on diluted earnings per share is down 17% to $0.40.
There is a bit of financial jiggery-pokery going on here, as Microsoft itself notes–there’s a deferred cash situation due to the “Windows 7 Upgrade Option program and sales of Windows 7 to OEMs and retailers before general availability,” which actually turns those figures into a $14.39 billion revenue and an EPS of $0.52. That’s a 4% decline year-on-year, and an 8% boost respectively. But the headline is still that revenues are down, no matter if the finances aren’t quite aligned to performance. Digging into the figures, it looks like most of that lost revenue is falling in the Windows and Windows Live Division, which reported a $4.28 billion revenue last year, and just $2.62 billion this year. Meanwhile Bing was one of the biggest drags on Microsoft’s Online Services division, resulting in an operating loss for this division of $480 million–up from a $321 million loss this time last year…can we assume the $100 million Microsoft’s spent promoting its revamped search service plays into this figure?
All of that sounds like bad news, but it isn’t according to MS’s CFO Chris Liddell, who noted “We are very pleased with our performance this quarter and particularly by the strong consumer demand for Windows.” Quoted in the financial press release, he goes on to note “We also maintained our cost discipline, which allowed us to drive strong earnings performance despite continued tough overall economic conditions.”
Lidell is, of course, right–these statistics do represent something of a success for a company whose global reach has exposed it to the economic downturn everywhere it exists and suggest it’s ridden out the storm fairly well. There’s also the continuing race to the bottom in prices to think about–the netbook phenomenon which has gobbled some of the low-end PC market, and the fact that millions of people weren’t buying Windows products in the run up to Windows 7’s launch.
But he’s also massaging the truth–even with pre-release sales of Windows 7 to OEMs wrapped into the statistics, Microsoft’s revenues have contracted for this quarter compared to last year’s performance. The folks at Redmond really have bet everything on the success of the successor to the nightmarish Windows Vista.