Microsoft (MSFT) has not changed much since 2000, since Steve Ballmer replaced Bill Gates. But the same could be said for a lot of stocks during the 2000 - 2010 era. The Dow is only slightly higher during the same time, peaking near 12,000 in 2000 and now being at 13,350.
Operating Systems ((OS)) are the core business of Microsoft, although they have now expanded into hundreds of niche industries from making keyboards, video games and business applications.
What made Microsoft a software behemoth, historically speaking, were OS releases that dominated the market, starting with MS-DOS, Windows 95, and Windows XP. Their first big flop in the OS space was Windows Vista.
To provide an example of what a nightmare Vista was, one of the key features in the User Account Control interface was designed specifically to annoy users.
David Cross, a product unit manager at Microsoft, stated during the RSA Conference 2008 that UAC was in fact designed to "annoy users," and force independent software vendors to make their programs more secure so that UAC prompts would not be triggered.
Microsoft finally admitted Vista was a disaster. Windows 7 on the other hand, seemed to have all the features Vista lacked and more. Windows 7 seemed to be the replacement for XP the market was waiting for. It was even heralded as the best Operating System ever by PC World.
The reviews for Windows 8 couldn't be any worse. It's been called a disaster, a desktop disaster, and a Christmas gift for someone you hate. Trying to capture the trend towards mobile devices, Windows 8 works on Tablets, Phablets, Desktops, Smartphones, and other devices. It's the one stop solution for all devices. Conceptually, it seems like a good business concept, i.e. they can sell more devices. That's been tried before in other markets and never worked. One size fits all doesn't work with clothing, cars, and especially Operating Systems.
Some of the executives say he kept Microsoft's Surface tablet a secret from them and quashed a rival tablet project. He also blocked such projects as a version of Office for Apple's (AAPL) iPad and Office apps for Facebook (FB), they say. One former executive describes him as a kind of Stalinesque figure-employees either agreed with him or they were purged. Sinofsky did not respond to requests for comment for this article, while Ballmer declined to comment.
Internet chatter couldn't be worse for the company, "Windows 8 killed my PC":
FORTUNE - Windows 8's growing pains could deliver a major blow to Microsoft's already dwindling market value. The company has bet the farm on the success of its new operating system as well as its new Surface tablet and Windows-branded smartphones. But with a lukewarm reception by users and sporadic issues with system migration, it's possible that Microsoft may soon have to make a lot of awkward, value-destroying apologies about Windows 8.
In this market, users are generally honest and forthcoming. If a product works well, they love it, they rave about it. Although the Apple cult is famous, Microsoft has a cult of its own, although less public and less well known. Mostly it's comprised of CIOs, developers and hardcore power users (hobbyists). In other words, we can trust this internet chatter because it's not like users have an agenda to make up stories about their problems for no good reason. There is no conspiracy against Microsoft.
Microsoft fan disclosure
We'd like to note that just because Windows 8 seems to be a big disaster, Microsoft is a great company that creates many products across a broad spectrum that fuel the world economy. It's hardest for Microsoft's fans and power users to see something like Windows 8, just as it was hard to go through the Vista nightmare.
Microsoft Hold Recommendation
We are not suggesting to short Microsoft although a series of disappointing numbers related to Windows 8 would likely affect the stock price. Simply, don't be led to believe that Windows 8 is the next Windows 95. Microsoft pays a good dividend and has many other businesses such as business applications that are not likely going away, or at least not to a large degree. So if you own it there's no hurry to get rid of it. But buying now in the hope of an increase is not prudent. Microsoft will likely do the same thing it did the last 10 years. In order to go to the next level, Microsoft needs another Windows 95, something groundbreaking and innovative, and Windows 8 is not it.
Technical suggestions, ways to avoid Windows 8
There are a few simple ways to avoid Windows 8. The most obvious is to simply stick with Windows 7. XP was supported during the entire Vista nightmare. Another, although more expensive for some users, is to switch to Microsoft server licensing. Many traders use Windows Server 2003, 2008 for their Virtual Private Servers ((VPS)) just like a Windows 7 desktop. Windows Server can usually be stripped down, like the Windows Server Web edition designed with tools only for Web Hosting and management. By disabling common Server features such as Active Directory, SQL, and other server apps (if you aren't using them) you can use a Windows Server like a desktop. Unlike the desktop OS, Windows Server is much more robust and designed to last - forever. Microsoft partners know there are still servers running Windows 2000. Although not a hit like Windows 95 or XP, Windows 2000 was extremely robust, based on NT architecture, and there are surely many servers running them today, even though support was discontinued in 2010. So although Windows 8 may be a bust for the stock price for Microsoft users shouldn't give up on them just yet.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.