Jun. 5, 2014, 3:25 AM
- Microsoft (MSFT) has declared that it will reduce the prices on its tablets and smartphones this year. Prices on the company's 7, 8, and 10-inch devices are planned to sell at the $100-$300 range instead of the $300-$500 range, and some Windows smartphones will also sell for under $200 in certain markets.
- The price cuts for the Windows 8 devices come as the company attempts to gain a greater market share in the mobile sector. Currently, Microsoft is battling Google who offers its Android operating system for free to handset and tablet developers.
Jun. 3, 2014, 11:11 AM
- Along with announcing a major revamp of iOS and Mac OS X's Spotlight search tool - integrated local/Web search, location-specific results, and more content-specific search options are some of the new features, Apple (AAPL +1.2%) has quietly disclosed it's dropping Google (GOOG -1.5%) as Spotlight's Web search provider in favor of Bing (MSFT -1%).
- Importantly, Google remains the default search provider for Safari, which in turn acts as the default iOS/Mac OS browser. But the Spotlight switch is still a noteworthy loss for Google, given the feature's tight integration with Apple's platforms - an iOS user only has to swipe down from his/her home screen to access Spotlight, and a new search box will provide quick access for Mac OS users.
- As for Bing, the deal provides a needed mobile win for a search engine estimated by StatCounter to have just a 5.48% global mobile/tablet search share as of May - 1.77% for Bing proper, 3.71% for Yahoo - to Google's 93.5%. Bing replaced Google as Siri's search engine last year.
- Separately, Apple has added DuckDuckGo as a Safari search option (along with Google, Bing, and Yahoo). DuckDuckGo tries to differentiate itself by emphasizing its privacy and security features - among other things, it doesn't store IP addresses or log user info.
May. 29, 2014, 4:47 PM
- Salesforce (CRM) plans to make its own apps, as well as its Salesforce1 app platform, interoperable with Office 365 (MSFT) apps.
- Among other things, users will be able to access, edit, and share Office 365 content from Salesforce/Salesforce1, and connect Salesforce data to Excel. Also, a new Salesforce Outook app will be developed.
- Salesforce also says it plans to extend Salesforce1, which has a strong mobile focus, to Windows and Windows Phone. General availability is due in 2015.
- Bloomberg reported this morning Salesforce's apps are set to run on Azure, and that a data integration deal is being discussed. The latter has been corroborated by the PR, but the former hasn't as of yet. A CC (starts at 4:45PM ET) should provide more details.
- Update (6:00PM): Salesforce shares are up 1.8% AH.
May. 29, 2014, 12:06 PM
- Bloomberg reports Microsoft (MSFT +0.1%) and Salesforce (CRM +2.2%) are near a deal that will allow Salesforce's cloud CRM apps to run on Microsoft's Azure cloud infrastructure/app development (IaaS/PaaS) platform. The companies are also reportedly discussing a data-integration deal involving Salesforce's apps and Office.
- The report is particularly notable in light of the rivalry between the companies: Microsoft's Dynamics CRM apps (offered both on-premise and over the cloud) compete against Salesforce's apps, and Azure squares off against Salesforce's Heroku and (to a lesser extent) Force.com PaaS platforms.
- But Satya Nadella has made it clear he's willing to increase Redmond's support for rival products/platforms when customers demand it. Microsoft is also intent on pulling out all the stops to challenge Amazon's public cloud leadership; Azure revenue rose 150% Y/Y in the March quarter.
- Last year, Salesforce struck a data integration deal with another major rival, Oracle. That deal also called for Salesforce to standardize to buy Oracle's Exadata systems and standardize on its databases/middleware. More recently, Salesforce launched a service that lets Heroku apps built by third parties integrate with Salesforce's apps.
May. 28, 2014, 1:58 PM
- Asked whether he supported Microsoft's (MSFT -0.4%) oft-criticized $7.2B acquisition of Nokia's phone unit when it was first struck, Satya Nadella declined to answer during a Code Conference talk (live blog).
- Bloomberg previously reported Nadella and Bill Gates (among others) voiced objections to the deal, and that Steve Ballmer was its driving force.
- Nadella declared Microsoft has no plans to sell Bing, which has generated huge losses over much of its history, to partner Yahoo (YHOO -0.7%). Marissa Mayer has expressed dissatisfaction over the performance of the Bing/Yahoo partnership (set to last until 2020), and has reportedly launched search tech projects meant to lower Yahoo's Bing dependence.
- Nadella also: 1) Asserted he has "no intent to do anything different on Xbox" than what Microsoft's doing today. 2) Stated Gates, who recently promised to spend over 1/3 of his available time at Microsoft, has "got some specific interest in Office and how to reinvent it."
- Separately, Microsoft is acquiring Capptain, a developer of analytics/usage-monitoring tools for app developers. Microsoft says it will integrate Capptain's offerings with its Azure cloud app platform (PaaS) services. The company has already rolled out a slew of new Azure tools this year.
May. 28, 2014, 5:09 AM| 5 Comments
May. 20, 2014, 12:04 PM
- Microsoft's (MSFT -0.3%) 3rd-gen Surface Pro tablet (live blog) has a display that's 1.4" larger than its predecessor, and also features a more business-friendly 3:2 aspect ratio (was 16:9 previously). The display's resolution has been upgraded to 2160x1440 from 1920x1080.
- In spite of the larger screen, the Pro 3's weight (~800g) is lower than the Pro 2's (~900g). Its most powerful model runs on an Intel (INTC -0.1%) Core i7 CPU (high-end), and revamped Type Cover accessories sport a bigger/improved trackpad. At 9.1mm thick, Microsoft declares the Pro 3 the "thinnest [Intel] Core product ever created.
- Adobe (ADBE -0.3%) VP Michael Gough has used the event to show off an upcoming touch-optimized version of Photoshop designed to be manipulated with the Pro 3's stylus.
- The Pro 3 starts at $799, albeit for an Intel Core i3 version; the Pro 2 (64GB model) was priced at $899 at launch time. Citing its form factor and display size, The Verge declares the Pro 3 is "designed to destroy the laptop."
- Though no iPad-killer, the Surface Pro has carved out a niche among business users and enthusiasts - the ARM-based Surface RT has had a rougher time. IDC estimates Windows devices had just a 3.4% tablet share in 2013, but also thinks they'll eventually grab over a quarter of the commercial segment, aided by growing convertible demand.
- Update: Microsoft says Core i5 Pro 3 models will be available on June 20. Other configurations will arrive in August.
May. 20, 2014, 7:09 AM
- China's Central Government Procurement Center has banned the use of Microsoft's (MSFT) Windows 8 operating system on government systems, with Xinhua saying that the move is to ensure computer security after the company stopped supporting Windows XP.
- China has been a problematic market for Microsoft due to rampant piracy, and as data firm Canalys writes, the ban on Windows 8 "hampers Microsoft's push for the OS to replace XP, which makes up 50% of China's desktop market."
- One wonders whether Microsoft is falling victim to a bit of tit-for-tat action after the U.S. accused five Chinese military officials of hacking into American nuclear, metal and solar companies to steal trade secrets.
May. 15, 2014, 4:18 AM
- Google (GOOG, GOOGL) has reportedly received requests to exclude links from its search results following the landmark European ruling on Tuesday that the company can be asked not to display information that is old or irrelevant.
- One of the requests came from a politician who wants to suppress links to news articles about him.
- Google and Yahoo (YHOO) are analyzing how they're going to implement the decision amid fears that they're going to be inundated with requests. What doesn't help is that the court ruling doesn't provide too many clear guidelines.
- "It's just such a mind-bogglingly impossible decision," says Indiana University's Fred Cate. "Courts aren't responsible for the practical implications of rulings but this really staggers the imagination."
- Relevant ticker: MSFT
May. 13, 2014, 11:17 AM
- Starting June 9, Microsoft (MSFT +0.8%) will sell the Xbox One at a $100 discount to customers willing to forgo a Kinect sensor.
- Microsoft's move allows it to price the One on par with the PlayStation 4 (SNE +1.1%), which has easily outsold the One since both consoles launched last November. But consumers who opt for the cheaper bundle also have to do without an accessory that's tightly integrated with many of the One's games and services, as well as its core UI.
- Yesterday: Office iPad downloads top 27M
May. 13, 2014, 4:52 AM
- The European Union Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled that Google (GOOG) can be ordered to delete sensitive information, under certain conditions, from its Internet search results if it is requested to do so.
- Google had argued that forcing it to remove data amounted to censorship, although privacy advocates believe that people should be able to delete their digital traces.
- The issue arose after a Spanish man complained that his privacy was infringed when an auction notice of his repossessed home appeared on search results.
- Other relevant tickers: YHOO, MSFT, YNDX, BIDU
May. 12, 2014, 5:46 PM
- Office iPad app downloads have hit 27M in 5 weeks, Microsoft (MSFT) exec Julia White stated at the company's TechEd conference. The software giant previously announced downloads for the long-anticipated and generally well-reviewed apps topped 12M in a week.
- Microsoft is also rolling out several new features for Azure for the second time this spring (previous). Among them is ExpressRoute, a solution that (via service provider partnerships) allows Azure servers to directly connect with enterprise servers without touching the public Internet.
- ExpressRoute yields improved performance for hybrid cloud deployments - Microsoft has been trying to use make strong hybrid cloud a differentiator relative to Amazon Web Services (more focused on public cloud services).
- Also announced: 1) An Azure anti-malware solution for cloud services and virtual machines. 2) New encryption, data loss prevention, and disaster recovery options. 3) A simplified cloud storage solution that allows multiple virtual machines to share the same file.
- Microsoft's Azure revenue rose 150% Y/Y in the March quarter, but the company hasn't given a specific sales figure. Synergy Research recently declared Azure to be "pulling away" from other rivals chasing Amazon, but its estimated sub-10% share remains well below Amazon's ~30% share for now.
May. 4, 2014, 4:11 AM
- Steve Ballmer has become Microsoft's (MSFT) largest individual shareholder after Bill Gates sold another lot of shares, taking his holding to just over 330M vs more than 333M for Ballmer. Both men own around 4%.
- Institutional investors Vanguard, State Street and BlackRock have slightly larger holdings.
- Bill Gates will cease to own any Microsoft shares by mid-2018 if he continues to sell 20M shares a quarter, as he has been doing for most of the last dozen years
May. 2, 2014, 1:34 PM
- Joel Greenblatt's screen looks to find stocks with high "earnings yield" - a high ratio of profits to enterprise value. Companies are further screened for a strong return on capital. When a stock scores well with both criteria, it's usually a good company being undervalued by investors.
- For picking individual stocks, there are probably better methods, but as a group, Magic Formula names have vastly outperformed the broad market.
- Although defense names have done well over the past couple of years, the Magic Formula continues to identify Northrop Grumman (NOC +0.2%), General Dynamics (GD +1.4%), and Raytheon (RTN +0.6%) as attractive. Firearm names Smith & Wesson (SWHC +0.8%) and Sturm Ruger (RGR +0.3%) also make the cut.
- A number of videogame makers show up as well: Take-Two (TTWO +0.3%), Activision Blizzard (ATVI +0.2%), GameStop (GME +2.8%), and the struggling recent IPO King Digital (KING -0.3%).
- Not too surprisingly, the Magic Formula also continues to like plenty of big-cap tech names: Cisco (CSCO -0.2%), CA, Inc. (CA -0.5%), Microsoft (MSFT -0.5%), Hewlett-Packard (HPQ -0.5%), and Apple (AAPL +0.1%).
- Hardly market laggards, media names like Time Warner (TWX -0.8%), Viacom (VIA +1.4%), Omnicom Group (OMC), and Starz (STRZA +2.3%) also show up on the list, as do struggling multi-level marketers and for-profit education stocks: HLF, NUS, APOL, ESI, CPLA.
- Punished by investors for not being as hot as they once were, Coach (COH +0.2%), Francesca' Holdings (FRAN +0.1%), and Gap (GPS -1.3%) are Magic Formula picks today.
May. 1, 2014, 8:48 AM
- The recent tech stock selloff (a selloff that has hit richly-valued cloud software stocks especially hard) has led enterprise cloud storage/file-syncing leader BOX to delay its anticipated IPO, the WSJ reports. Though Box's March 24 public S-1 filing made it eligible to list as soon as early April, there's still no timetable.
- Possibly adding to Box's caution: Its S-1 raised eyebrows on account of the huge losses that were disclosed. The company's sales/marketing spend for the fiscal year ending Jan. 31 single-handedly exceeded its revenue for the period by 34%.
- The WSJ's report comes shortly after Microsoft (MSFT) fired a fresh salvo at Box and Dropbox by increasing the amount of storage provided by its OneDrive for Business by 40x to 1TB, and providing the solution for free to Office 365 ProPlus customers.
- Box, which sells to ~40% of the Fortune 500 to varying degrees, has long argued its rich feature set and 3rd-party app support help it differentiate.
Apr. 28, 2014, 3:19 PM
- With U.S. carriers trying hard to lower subsidy spend, Android (GOOG -0.8%) grew its U.S. smartphone share to 57.6% in Q1 from 49.3% a year earlier, thinks Kantar Worldpanel. Kantar also estimates Google's OS grew its EU5 share by 150 bps to 70.7% and its Chinese share by 810 bps to 80%, albeit while seeing its Japanese share drop 430 bps to 57.3%.
- Five days after Apple (AAPL +3.6%) reported its Japanese sales rose 26% Y/Y, Kantar estimates the company's Japanese share rose 860 bps 57.6%. On the other hand, its U.S. share fell 780 bps to 43.7%, and its Chinese share 540 bps to 17.9%. EU5 share rose fractionally to 19.2%.
- Strong phablet sales boosted Android's Chinese position: Over 40% of the country's March smartphone sales involved 5"+ devices. Can a 5.5" iPhone give Apple a lift?
- Following recent share gains, Kantar thinks Windows Phone (MSFT +2.3%) is slumping due to low-end Android competition: Though its 8.1% EU5 share is up 160 bps Y/Y, it's down from recent 9%+ levels.WP's U.S. and Chinese shares are respectively at 5.3% (-30 bps) and 1% (-90 bps).
- Meanwhile, with the Nokia deal closed, new Microsoft hardware chief Stephen Elop says Redmond is committed to supporting the low-end Nokia X Android phones. Elop: "Nokia X uses the MSFT cloud, not Google's. This is a great opportunity to connect new customers..."
- While many tech momentum stocks get crushed, Apple and Microsoft are benefiting from a flight to safety. Apple has made fresh 52-week highs, and Microsoft is close to its 52-week high of $41.66.
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Microsoft Corp is engaged in designing, manufacturing, selling devices, and online advertising to a global customer audience. Its products include operating systems for computing devices, servers, phones, and other intelligent devices.
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