Microsoft Revenue Will Benefit from Business Refresh: Analyst

Microsoft announces quarterly results July 22, and analysts expect refreshed business spending on software to affect its bottom line. Windows 7 and other desktop products remain Microsoft's fiscal foundation.

Microsoft will announce its quarterly results July 22, and analysts are expecting the company to post revenue of $15.27 billion. If that number proves accurate, then Microsoft will find itself surpassed by Apple, which announced quarterly revenue of $15.7 billion earlier this week.

Ten years ago, Apple seemed to be circling the proverbial drain, while Microsoft remained comfortably dominant in the PC space. Analysts and pundits will likely spend the next several days talking about how Apple's reversal of fortune-as well as some of Microsoft's current problems-stem from the eclipsing of the PC by the mobile device.

But Microsoft continues to dominate the desktop space, and analysts expect Microsoft's quarterly earnings to reflect that fact. A slowly reviving economy will also apparently contribute to the company's bottom line; there have been signs that business spending on software, anemic up to this point, may be on the upswing. In 2009, Microsoft faced several quarters of fiscal devastation as both businesses and consumers cut back on PC purchases and software spending.

"We expect to see further evidence that an enterprise PC and server replacement cycle is upon us," Katherine Egbert, an analyst with Jefferies & Co., wrote in a July 19 research note. "Recent reports by Intel and others indicate that the much-anticipated PC and server upgrade cycle has begun."

As with past quarters, Microsoft will likely rely on its flagship products-notably Windows 7, which has sold 100 million licenses worldwide since its October 2009 release-for the lion's share of its revenue. New products have not proven to be runaway bestsellers, at least not yet.

"We think it's too early to see a boost from Kinect (formerly Project Natal) units, which are slated to start shipping in early November," Egbert wrote. "We don't see Bing search or Azure cloud services adding meaningfully, despite recent market share gains and customer wins." Nor did Egbert expect to see any upside in revenue from Office 2010, "although a [fiscal year end] wave of volume license agreements that include Office 2010 could benefit unearned revenue."

Microsoft is in the process of shifting its corporate strategy to focus ever-more-exclusively on the cloud. During the company's Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC), which took place in Washington, D.C., July 11-15, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer suggested an intensive focus on bringing cloud-based services to businesses, centered on platforms such as Azure.

"We've been shouting about -O Cloud' at the WPC now for about four years," Ballmer told an audience during his July 12 keynote. "There's no question that Microsoft has chosen to embrace that path together with all of you, and there's no question that there's more to do."

Companies such as offer infrastructure as a service, and companies such as offer software as a service, but Microsoft used the WPC to tout its own self-described cloud niche, "IT as a service"-in essence, offering Azure and other cloud-based products as a way for enterprises to fulfill multiple functions.

But how quickly are businesses choosing to embrace the cloud? A recent survey by Tech Target featured 69 percent of respondents "not considering" cloud computing, while 10 percent said they planned to implement private clouds and 6 percent said they were planning to implement public clouds within the next 12 months.

Actual revenue numbers from initiatives such as Azure could give a better idea of early adoption rates for Microsoft's cloud products. In the meantime, however, Microsoft continues to rely on the desktop for its financials.