Windows 8 Launch Looks Like A Bomb

Oct.30.12 | About: Microsoft Corporation (MSFT)

All you really need to know about the three-pronged launch of Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) Windows 8 is that the all-important Windows Phone launch was planned for Monday.

Type "Windows 8," then a space, into Google and the most popular auto-complete is "like a bad blind date." Other suggestions are "awful," "terrible" and "horrible."

What does this tell us about Wednesday's action in the stock? Expect a very down day. Microsoft has bet heavily on a return to its prominence in consumer markets, and seems to have lost that bet.

But after the bears run out, expect a small run of bulls. Because Microsoft has not yet lost the enterprise, CIOs remain a powerful force, and given Apple's lack of strength in servers they really have few good choices. What you're going to see by the end of November is a stock trading near present levels, which based on forward earnings are depressed, and awaiting the final verdict of Christmas in January.

All of which means is I expect some Microsoft bargains ready for Christmas giving.

An AP survey launched before the billion-dollar ad campaign for the new operating system shows half of consumers haven't heard of it. A survey of developers and re-sellers by CRN says two-thirds see an average or below-average profit opportunity. (Optimists may note that people don't exactly love Mitt Romney, either.)

The most popular utility for the new operating system appears to be one that restores the old Start button from Windows 7.

Microsoft wrote Windows 8 to break into the tablet and phone markets now dominated by Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and versions of Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android, so the broad consumer dissing of the launch is financially significant. But the hope remains that developers will jump on board with the new OS, seeing continuing development from Windows 7 onto 8 as a faster way to the market than rewriting applications for another operating system.

CEO Steve Ballmer tried to give an appearance of momentum by saying that "demand exceeds that for Windows 7," which was generally seen as a success, and that there were lines outside Microsoft stores. But Geekwire visited such a line in Seattle and found most of those in it were Microsoft employees or affiliated with the company in some other way.

A former Microsoft employee also wrote a more balanced view for Geekwire. Christoper Budd says that "there's no chance Microsoft will disappear," because of cash on hand and legacy sales, but "the world has already changed." He thinks Windows 7, despite its success, was the big mistake, that it was too much of a "turn the crank" version of previous offerings released just as the market metaphor was changing, and that Windows 8 is merely an adaptation to "a new normal."

Perhaps no stock on the board needs a bid, and an asked, as much as Microsoft right now.

Disclosure: I am long MSFT, GOOG, AAPL. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.