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Microsoft (MSFT) has long been a force to be reckoned with, and this year showed investors that even a post-PC age doesn’t mean profits have passed it by.
Yes, the company has a forward price-to-earnings ratio of around 10.5 and a staggering $77 billion in the bank.
Microsoft just reported Q4 earnings, including almost $20 billion in revenue and just shy of $5 billion in net income. The reasons are myriad, but a big driver in the decline comes to a $900 million charge related to Surface inventory adjustments. This is bad not just because of the hit on the bottom line, but because it’s indicative of a false-start in the mobile space that Microsoft so desperately needs to figure out.
Consider that the last 15 years have been nothing but a downward spiral in licenses, margins and brand power for the enterprise giant. Most Microsoft investors talk about the Windows “monopoly” and the wide moat in the PC space that MSFT has.
After all, Henry Ford didn’t need to figure out how to build a better horse to put related businesses on their heels … he simply needed to figure out a viable alternative and go about building an empire as the livery and saddle shops collapsed from within. I remain convinced that laptops and desktops will play a role in the future of computing, especially in enterprise settings. Microsoft has a host of headlines across the last several months that make good excuses — its CFO stepped down, the Xbox One is rolling out even as the division leader jumped ship for embattled video gaming stock Zynga (ZNGA), the threat of activist shareholders shaking things up, and so on.
But the Surface and mobile troubles, coupled with the secular decline of the PC, cannot and should not be overlooked. The bottom line is that Microsoft is a company with an uncertain future and earnings are pretty lackluster. Yes, they all have plans to get beyond PC demand and into mobile … but as Microsoft earnings showed, simply trying is not enough to satisfy shareholders forever. Connected advertising and marketing.A Cisco believes that this category (think Internet-connected billboards) will be one of the top three IoT categories, along with smart factories, and telecommuting support systems. Waste management systems.A In Cincinnati, residential waste volume fell 17% and recycling volume grew by 49% through use of a a€?pay as you throwa€? program that used IoT technology to monitor those who exceed waste limits. Smart water systems and meters.A The cities of Doha, SA?o Paulo, and Beijing have reduced leaks by 40 to 50% by putting sensors on pumps and other water infrastructure.

Industrial usesA including Internet-managed assembly lines, connected factories, and warehouses, etc. Our BI IntelligenceA INSIDER Newsletters are currently read by thousands of business professionals first thing every morning. Our subscribers consider the INSIDER Newsletters a "daily must-read industry snapshot" and "the edge needed to succeed personally and professionally" a€” just to pick a few highlights from our recent customer survey.
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Despite an ugly earnings report, the tech giant is still up more than 19% year-to-date in 2013 to outperform the market and boasts a 2.9% dividend yield to boot.
But MSFT stock is on the wane, and one way or another it will end up costing you a lot over the next few years.
Yes, the Apple (AAPL) suite of devices including the iPhone and iPad were the first threats to the MSFT empire. Internet connected devices have soared since 2005 … but Microsoft has failed to participate in that boom with its flagship Windows operating system or with its mobile Windows Phone offering. However it is unlikely that simply fending off complete obsolescence will be enough to result in growth at Microsoft — especially if its Surface line continues to meet with headwinds.
After Apple and Google, its only real competition is BlackBerry (BBRY) — which has a lot of trouble of its own, but more importantly doesn’t have even close to the balance sheet that MSFT does. The dividend yield is nice, yet, but I don’t think the selloff was an overreaction after the sharp run-up in shares.
That doesn’t warrant the outperformance we’ve seen year-to-date and will eventually get priced into shares further over the months and years ahead. Consider that this kind of pressure is likely to increasingly become a part of the conversation about Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), Dell (DELL), Intel (INTC) and other PC-reliant businesses in the future.
Machina research, in a paper prepared for the GSM Association, sees $100 billion in revenue by 2020 for applications such as toll-taking and congestion penalties.
These will represent savings of $200 billion to $500 billion per year by 2025, according to the McKinsey Global Institute. As an added bonus, you'll also gain access to all future reports and daily newsletters to ensureA you stay ahead of the curve and benefit personally and professionally.

Fortune 1000 companies, startups, digital agencies, investment firms, and media conglomerates rely on these newsletters to keep atop the key trends shaping their digital landscape a€” whether it is mobile, digital media, e-commerce, payments, or the Internet of Things. Sales and construction data have been a mixed bag this year, and it's likely to stay that way.While home sales and construction might pick up modestly, a more robust increase will be tempered by lingering concerns about the job market and economic turmoil abroad. But now Google (GOOG) and its ubiquitous Android seems to be perhaps even more of a threat, because that’s open source and has allowed the expansion of Amazon (AMZN) into hardware via its Kindle as well as other dedicated hardware stocks like Samsung (SSNLF).
But note that a competitor hasn’t had to erode the Windows empire (and related businesses like Office software, of course) so much as render it meaningless.
Microsoft can afford to throw billions at mobile until BlackBerry dies and some of that enterprise business migrates over. A related revenue source will be smart parking-space management, expected to drive $30 billion in revenue.
That means a significant number of potential buyers will remain on the sidelines, say Mitch Hochberg, principal at New York City-based Madden Real Estate Ventures."With the unemployment numbers as high as they are, even with some minor reduction as we've recently seen, it's still an overriding issue that impacts consumer confidence," Hochberg says. That scarcity translates into multiple offers and higher home prices, a good development in many realtors' eyes.Average buyers are also finding themselves competing with investors, who tend to have the upper hand when it comes time to close a deal. Investors are often preferred by banks and sellers looking to make a quick sell, and many times are armed with easy cash offers. Average buyers tend to need financing to make a home purchase, which can stall a deal and leave the seller or bank on the hook for payments and maintenance for longer than they had hoped.More foreclosures, more price declines. Homeownership Rate Sinks to 15-Year Low.]That means in the near term, home prices could take another hit on their way down to bottom.
Still, Tashjian and other experts are optimistic that the table is set for a stronger housing recovery later this year or early next year."Lending is starting to come back, there's job growth," Tashjian says.

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