back to article Microsoft CFO quits as quarterly results fail to sparkle

Microsoft has released its financial results for the third financial quarter of 2013 and the results make uncertain reading for CEO Steve Ballmer, who is also about to lose his chief financial officer Peter Klein. Redmond reported revenues of $20.49bn for the three months ended 31 March, up 17.2 per cent year-on-year, and …

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Anonymous Coward

The problem is that no obvious replacement exists....

Bill Gates has time on his hands.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: The problem is that no obvious replacement exists....

"Bill Gates has time on his hands.Bill Gates has time on his hands"

Bill Gates has BLOOD on his hands. -fixed

.

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Worked for Steve Jobs, why not BG?

If you look at any MS stock graph you see huge increases while BG was running the place. Hand over to SB and Microsoft essentially flat-lines from there out.

Reinstalling BG would do wonders for reinvigorating stock confidence. He might not deliver anything, but it would at least give the stock price a nice kick and allow a lot of people to make a lot of money (or lose it depending which end you're on).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Worked for Steve Jobs, why not BG?

Jobs had character defects, but at least the company didn't have a near permanent presence in the courts.

BG has defects that make it appear he considers the law and user rights as a mere inconvenience, only to be paid attention to when it gets in the way of sales or when a pesky EU gang hauls him into the dock for practices his company got away with in the US. This is why I often compare Google with Microsoft - practically the same modus operandi including flinging around a frankly incredible amount of BS to cover it all up:

"The bold bets we made on cloud services are paying off as people increasingly choose Microsoft services including Office 365, Windows Azure, Xbox LIVE, and Skype," said chief Steve Ballmer in a canned statement. "While there is still work to do, we are optimistic that the bets we've made on Windows devices position us well for the long-term."

Well, QED.

Thus, I don't think bringing BG back will help the company, Sure, the stock would spike, but anyone with half a braincell would at that point sell. Which means the shares would drop again.

Ballmer is a classic lieutenant: prepared to faithfully do the master's bidding, however weird, illegal or idiotic it was ("developers, developers, developers - and deodorant"). These people don't fare well without masters because they don't have vision themselves (that's why they're such good right hand men - no threat). It is easy to be a threat to Ballmer, just be visionary or smarter - and Ballmer will eject you. What is left is not going to help MS in any way, shape or form because Ballmer will see that as a threat instead of good leadership. Thus, it remains Ballmer who is standing at the rudder, watching the surrounding water levels rise.

From an outsider perspective they don't rise: it's because the ship has been sinking for quite some time. The good news for Ballmer is that it happens very, very slowly - this will take many more years.

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Re: Worked for Steve Jobs, why not BG?

"Jobs had character defects, but at least the company didn't have a near permanent presence in the courts."

Not for lack of trying, after all he was the one who was going to go thermonuclear on Android and the one who let slip in his memoirs that he had colluded with publishers to increase the price of ebooks.

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Re: Worked for Steve Jobs, why not BG?

Pumping and dumping - is that not illegal?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Worked for Steve Jobs, why not BG?

Indeed, MS need the guy with the halo effect. Since Apple lost St. Steve they are showing of signs of faltering just like MS. Companies and their disciples need their saints and prophets, that's human nature.

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Windows

Time to go Steve

MS are in a perfect storm of their own making. They got lazy and allowed the mobile and cloud markets to run off without them. With controversial approaches to Office and Windows not going down well with either enterprise or consumers, their highly detrimental and desperate focus of competing in the tablet market has ruined the PC market and lost them some already struggling friends. They look like a firm without a clue how to get back into the game and a radical change of thinking is needed at the top.

I doubt many would shed a tear for MS at this difficult time. Particularly with a dinosaur at the helm in a market where you need either a visionary, or an in touch-with-the-modern-world CEO, neither of which Ballmer seems to be.

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Re: Time to go Steve

They also seem to have got stuck in telling us what we want rather than simply listen to what we're telling them. Complaints about Metro aren't exactly difficult to find after all and it's a pity they don't pay more attention to them beyond offering the option to boot direct to the desktop in 8.1 (perhaps they'll end up having to release an '8.1.1 for workgroups desktop users' so that TIFKAM can be removed entirely?).

Some executive somewhere at Microsoft is probably so emotionally invested in the whole Metro - TIFKAM? - thing that they seem to be completely incapable of seeing how much people would rather get rid of it. I guess working at a large corporation really *is* like living in a Dilbert strip...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Time to go Steve

Hah hah, a 'perfect storm' of year over year revenue increases and 2 billion dollars NET PROFIT a month? That is my kind of perfect storm!

Enterprises are pretty much all locked in to multi year agreements for Win/Office, which they have already paid for.

The phone business finally appears to be firing. It is now clear that WP will replace BB as the third major mobile ecosystem.

So yeah, a bit of work needs to be done in the consumer tablet space. But with $63 billion in the bank, increasing by $2 billion every month, I doubt MS are sweating it too badly. I guess tablets probably have a two/three year refresh cycle, so given their lateness to market MS will not get the initial sale but will be able to have a go at the refresh sale.

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Re: Time to go Steve

Yep that is why the CFO and every other executive with the skills to run the company has left huh? Because the future is so bright. It's been well over a decade and Ballmer still hasn't increased the market cap from the day he became CEO.

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Sure Mr. AC

"The phone business finally appears to be firing. It is now clear that WP will replace BB as the third major mobile ecosystem."

Firing blanks maybe.

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Re: Time to go Steve

While Internet Explorer 9 was in public beta, I sincerely tested it and tried just about every new feature it promoted. Long before I knew of the Metro fiasco, I noticed an inconsistency in the UI when you pinned a website to the taskbar - what effectively acted as the home button to take you back to the root of that website, the website's icon, was to the left of the Back button, while the home button itself disappeared for a pinned window. The inconsistency itself isn't that the home button disappeared but that its effective replacement suddenly moved from the right side of the window to the left. I reported that inconsistency as a bug, actually thinking it might have been something they hadn't addressed yet, only to be told that that inconsistency was by design.

What I described is a minor detail (and I personally know of only one person that uses pinned websites... and only because I pinned it for her to make it convenient to log into Facebook), but that very same response appeared to bug reports about Metro - that everything about it was by design, even as the complaints grew.

Yes, I get it - they have a vision. The problem is that their vision is incomplete and quite simply what the vast majority of people want. For the moment at least, both OS X and other *nix desktops are a niche market, so Apple and *nix desktop developers have more freedom to experiment with interfaces if for no other reason than they don't have to satisfy as many people.

Most people still use Windows for two primary reasons - their legacy applications work on it, and they're used to its interfaces (graphical and otherwise). With Metro, they've just lost their GUI familiarity, and with Windows RT, they've lost their legacy applications. People who use Windows expect it to look and feel like Windows.

PS: Curse the lack of an edit button. I was looking at the wrong tab when I first responded...

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Re: Time to go Steve

Correction: Third paragraph, second sentence - "[...] NOT what the vast majority of people want."

I re-emphasize my previous PS.

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@ Vimes

"They also seem to have got stuck in telling us what we want rather than simply listen to what we're telling them. "

The Adam Orth Twitter debacle is more evidence of this. Ballmer's arrogance has infected a generation of management at MS.

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Re: Time to go Steve @Jordan Davenport

...that everything about it was by design...

It's the same with office too. They've changed the way protection works in Excel 2013 and other office applications so that it deliberately works more slowly. Apparently this is done to make brute force attacks more time consuming to perform, but it's irritating nevertheless. Working with a large workbook used to take ~1 minute. Now it takes nearer 10.

Yet again we have Microsoft telling us what we want without bothering to ask why we're using these features. In my case it's more to do with stopping users doing boneheaded things rather than protect information as such, but rather than listen to what users are telling them - there are plenty of complaints online if you go looking for them - they prefer to parrot the line about this being done 'by design' and there being no fix for it. They keep on repeating that this change has been made to comply with ISO standards, but this seems to ignore that those same ISO standards are based on Microsoft's own work.

In short Microsoft seem to be telling the users 'this is what we're going to do whether you like it or not - screw you'.

(and it would be nice to have editing features wouldn't it? personally I'm not sure why they would want to restrict this to members that have badges since a post with errors in affects them as much as anybody else)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Time to go Steve

OK. Just in case you didn't read the article and just read the headline.

IT WAS ALL DOUBLE DIGIT INCREASES IN REVENUE IN EVERY DIVISION!

Maybe something is hidden there that speaks to the end of Microsoft but you have to really read into this to get negative news from it.

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Anonymous Coward

WP will replace BB? Not likely.

It is now clear that WP will replace BB as the third major mobile ecosystem.

Yeah, sure. Let's just bet corporate secrets on a company that has as yet to manage to bring out a single product that is even remotely secure, against a company that lost track of the fact that people want the occasional modernisation, but who have established a reasonable (but incomplete) reputation for security.

I don't think so. The fact that MS has fallen hard on its face in these markets before is not helping either - nobody is willing to bet on a horse that has as yet to manage actually finishing a race, let alone win it.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Time to go Steve

Hah hah, maybe the CEO left because he has made so much money that he does not have bother working any more? Why work when you can sit on your ass spending the hundreds of millions you have earned at MS?

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So profits are up across the board, despite the shrinking PC market. Not bad for a company that many commentards on here have been writing off for years.

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Yeah, a bit weird.

I'd be up towards the front of the queue to give ol' Steve the boot :D but you've got to wonder at the logic of dissing the performance of a company that increased profitability *substantially* during a market downturn and the CFO leaves in disgrace.

That's business for you, fickle and weird.

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Yes, came here to say just this. I looked a the headline figures and thought "blimey that growth rate looks pretty healthy". The downgrade is due to struggling Windows 8, tablet and phone strategy however. so I suppose Goldman's point is that this is the high water mark.

I guess the CFO is looking at the current sales figures, and going >gulp<

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Nobody is writing MS off but the figures are relatively poor. The last year includes lost of Windows 7 + Office 2010 rollouts by corporates before XP runs out. Such business is certainly nice to have but does not count as growth. That was supposed to come across the board: from mobile, from consumers, from SaaS. But that growth hasn't materialised. In the meantime the PC market has entered terminal decline while everybody else's phones and tablets are selling like hotcakes.

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Meh

Geek Win (sort of)

Usually in a situation like this the geek(s) heads would roll so it's kind of cool that the finance guy is getting heat. The downside is that this time it is the fault of the geeks who are responsible for Windows 8. I fancy myself adaptable and I even like the Ribbon but damn it all Win 8 is awful.

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Re: Geek Win (sort of)

Care to share what is so terrible with windows 8 in your view?

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Happy

Re: Geek Win (sort of)

My 13 year old son came home from school one day earlier this year and early told me that the school had rolled out win 8 and that it was sick. From the mouths of babes ...

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Re: Geek Win (sort of)

> ...and that it was sick.

Depending on the current street speak trends, to a 46-year old there is still some ambiguity here. :D

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Re: Geek Win (sort of)

You clearly have not been watching any Discovery Channel during the past half-decade!

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Re: Geek Win (sort of)

Don't know about him, but my views after having used it for 4 months:

Metro problems:

- Every icon normally added to the start menu gets sprayed onto the Metro start screen after an install, so I have to keep re-arranging the icons there.

- Some metro icons can take two tiles, Some can't. It's not clear why that is.

- Changing a shortcut's properties means locating the 'file' it's associated with, then changing the properties of that file.

- Lesser-used icons for programs that I have installed fill (on my 1920x1200 resolution screen) 4 screens of (largely) disorganized icons.

- Search is useful if and only if you know the name of the lesser-used program you are looking for

- But not if that program is an 'app'. Those sort and display differently.

- Some computer settings (lock screen, user accounts, user account types) are available in a Metro settings panel. Some of those are also available in the control panel but with different options.

- Every time a Metro app that can read different file types gets updated, Windows asks me again if I'd like to use it to open this file I clicked on.

General uselessness:

- Management of networks (wireless or otherwise) is entirely at the command line using the netsh command. Windows will still 'see' the same network as 'different' from time to time, so you'll still see connections to 'network 12' or some such.

- Can't change an automatically-detected 'private' network to a 'public' or 'home' network or vice versa. Those settings still affect the firewall rules though, so if it's mis-detected you get to use netsh some more.

- I keep turning media sharing off. It keeps showing up in the network locations, with one instance for each user account. None of them work though, because media sharing is turned off.

- Changing file file associations works for some applications and file types. For others it doesn't work. If the file name of the program you want to use happens to be the same as the one you used to use, it will never work. This is even if you change it in the registry.

- Desktop 'charms' mean that overshooting into a corner (desktop or Metro mode) mean that you can (and will) accidentally activate something you didn't want to at some point or another.

Weirdness that isn't well documented:

- The system-wide search tool is the same search tool you use to search inside Metro apps like the Microsoft app store. This isn't mentioned anywhere that I could find in the Windows help. Google found that though.

- If you want to open a second instance of a program (a second notepad window, for example) the process is:

- Go to the metro screen

- Right-click on the app tile

- Select 'open new window' from the charm bar at the bottom of the metro screen.

Stability:

- Hibernate, a feature I've been using since Windows XP, is now so unreliable that I have disabled it. The 'clue' that Windows gives you if it can't restore your state is particularly helpful - it turns the computer back off. Unless you are in a dark room, it's easy to miss that the computer you just turned on isn't on any more...

That's just off the top of my head. I've got more if you want them.

I initially 'upgraded' so I could determine if it would be useful to roll this out inside my company. After using it for a while, I can't imagine a time when I'd want to do that, so we will be skipping this version and advising others to do the same. Maybe Windows 9 will not get in the way as much as 8 does. Maybe we'll all just switch to Macs.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Geek Win (sort of)

Thanks for that full overview, very helpful.

Maybe we'll all just switch to Macs

I've spent the last half year almost exclusively helping companies doing just that. It's easier if they are small - large corporates which were weaned off sensible concepts such as Open Standards have dug themselves in so deep that extracting it will take more long term planning, but even there I have helped kickstart projects to do just that.

Personally, I don't really believe in a monoculture - I believe in "best for the job". That's why I like Open Standards - it removes the need for one type of desktop. It also helps at a strategic level, especially companies going on an acquisition tour should start with getting their own house in order. It can add about 2 months of revenue of the newly bought organisation to the bottom line with every merger..

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Trollface

The results for the 3rd quarter of 2013??

Wow. So we know Win8 continues to fail for the next 6 months huh?..

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Re: The results for the 3rd quarter of 2013??

Indeed I was just considering that myself. Either the article is referring to projected figures or means Q3 2012. Who knows which?

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Re: The results for the 3rd quarter of 2013??

"Fiscal" years work in mysterious ways

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Re: The results for the 3rd quarter of 2013??

One possibility is current low sales have been inflated by expected future sales and even if real sales pick up considerably they might not reach the level required to cover the imaginary sales figures they've been putting forward. Good time to leave before the cops get you.

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FAIL

"bets" ? Not "investments" ?

When your CEO seems to regard your business as a giant roulette wheel, one might ask if he's the right guy to be at the helm.

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Flame

Enough?

$6 Billion profit in one 3 month period isn't enough?

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Re: Enough?

That will be decreasing soon. Most all of the profit are from revenue streams they had in place long before Ballmer became CEO. Streams that are starting to flatten out and recede even in some cases.

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Anonymous Coward

This is what I think.....

I do find the comments section of the Reg amusing. Post a ‘Microsoft Profit Announcement ‘ news piece and the usual people start frothing at the mouth and writing about the demise of MS, even though the company is in rude health financially and is going from strength to strength. I mean, they are making $2 billion a month profit. Not revenue, or turnover, but PROFIT!!

But the really funny thing is the vitriol of the posters. You would think MS ran over their puppy.

What makes me chuckle is that that most of the views & opinions I hear in the comments section were formed many years ago. The commentards have obviously spent many years nurturing these feelings of resentment. I guess they must have formed these opinions based on what MS was doing in the late nineties, or the turn of the century.

The funny thing is though that most of the people who were making those decisions at MS in those days have left. They made so much money that they no longer need to work for a living. Anyone still left at MS from those days works there through choice, not necessity.

So, even if the commentards best wishes came true, and MS goes down the plug hole, the people who made the decisions that they so hated will not be affected. They are already set up for life and nothing can take that away from them.

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Re: This is what I think.....

$8Bn profit on $60Bn of cash isn't a good rate of return for a software company. It's not even good ROI for a rental property. Companies that in theory only have to push out free to make online downloads of products that they built years ago are expected to make a little more

The analysts real question is where do they see MSFTs stock price in another 10 or 20 years time. Will we still be queuing up to buy DVDs of Windows19 and upgrade to Office2033?

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Boffin

Re: This is what I think.....

> Will we still be queuing up to buy DVDs of Windows19 and upgrade to Office2033?

Nope, we'll (or our successors will) have their credit cards slurped by the minute to use Windows 300 and Office 240 (numbers based on the days of uptime per year the "cloud" will have).

MS CLOUD FAIL

(Let's see... "tech genius" icon - check; all-caps byline - check. Missing anything? I'm surprised the "Big E" hasn't been around. What an ironic name to call him.)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: This is what I think.....

What a load of pish. You are muttering about 'rate of return'. MS has returned well over $100 billion to shareholders via dividends. I would rather have the divi then see them spend the $$ on some stupid project, for example, building ugly glasses for socially retarded nerds that will just get them beaten up/mugged more often.

And 13.5% on property investments? Hhhhmmmm. most of the muppets in property manage about 6% gross. You are either bucking the trend or lying. I know which I would guess.

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FAIL

Re: This is what I think.....

The value of a company depends on FUTURE revenues, not past.

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Anonymous Coward

Goldman Sachs downgraded Microsoft's stock to a "sell" rating

Windows 8: failing, business don't want, nor do consumers.

Office irrelevant and overpriced for home users and no real shout about features for a decade.

Windows Phone; dead

Surface: Dead

Zune: Dead

Xbox: Almost Dead.

Really what do Microsoft have that's worth anything anymore???

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Re: Goldman Sachs downgraded Microsoft's stock to a "sell" rating

I agree with most of those pionts except the x-box. Although I only expect the x-box to last one maybe two more generations.

Lets face it, the majority of microsofts xbox related profit comes from xbox exclusives owned by microsoft. Next generation both microsoft and sony are going to a more PC-centric architecture. The majority of 360 peripherals already work on PC as it is.

With a more PC like architecture I see more of the first party games coming out on console and pc, and the following generation just pushing it all to PC. Just personal opinion, no real fact to back it up but it many ways it makes sense.

Nobody likes being a loser, and in their two generations Microsoft has come last place twice now. (xbox destroyed by ps2, 360 recently overtaken by ps3 although only by a small margin, defeated completely in europe, japan and the rest of the world, the only place microsoft saw victory was USA)

source: http://www.ubergizmo.com/2013/01/ps3-overtakes-xbox-360-in-global-sales-figures/

I honestly believe microsoft would be better suited shifting more of their console games to PC this generation (after a delay of course) after all, PC gaming was killed by the console rapidly overtaking them for a period, it's only right that PC destroy the console in return now that the playing field has been evened out.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Goldman Sachs downgraded Microsoft's stock to a "sell" rating

They have.....drum roll...a bunch of products that make them $2bn a month in profit.....

and a tasty portfolio of patents that bring them lots of lovely $$ from the android ecosystem. Hah hah hah!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Goldman Sachs downgraded Microsoft's stock to a "sell" rating

Microsoft are very good at fooling people with carefully crafted press releases.

What people fail to realise, the Xbox is a massive failure for Microsoft, much beyond them being in last place this generation (something they have been continually shouting about how how irrelevant Sony was they they were in last place, but now the tables have turned, not so bullish).

With a 50% or higher failure rate. How many of those 70m console sales are turning into users? 40m at best. Of which only half of those bother paying for XBox lIve....

In other words, a paying userbase of 20m. How is that not a total and utter flop.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Goldman Sachs downgraded Microsoft's stock to a "sell" rating

They have.....drum roll...a bunch of LEGACY products that make them $2bn a month in profit.....

Fixed it for you. Nobody is buying their new stuff, as Microsoft have totally and utterly failed to move with the times. The new IBM.....

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Re: Goldman Sachs downgraded Microsoft's stock to a "sell" rating

They "totally and utterly failed to move with the times" Really, and that's why for example their Server and Tools division grows in double digits for the last several years ? :-)

The new IBM - wonderful! IBM is a great company with very solid profitability and great R&D.

You know, toys are not everything...

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