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Microsoft Financials: steady, but a turning point as on-premises server business declines

Microsoft has announced its latest financials, and I have made a quick table summarising the year-on-year comparison for the quarter. See the end of this post for what the confusing segment categories represent.

Quarter ending  March 31st 2016 vs quarter ending March 31st 2015, $millions

Segment Revenue Change Operating income Change
Productivity and Business Processes 6522 +65 2994 -210
Intelligent Cloud 6096 +193 2188 -345
More Personal Computing 9458 +89 1645 +596
Corporate and Other -1545 -1545 -1544 -1352

A few observations.

Overall the figures are flat. That is not a bad result if you think of Microsoft as a PC company, considering that the PC is in decline; disappointing if you think of Microsoft as a cloud company. The answer is that one is offsetting the other, which is not too bad.

Microsoft says that revenue and income would be up, were it not for currency fluctuations. Of course there is that big hit in “Corporate and other” which is “net revenue deferral related to Windows 10 of $1.6 billion,” according to the earnings statement.

On-premises server business is in retreat. It is not possible to migrate customers to the cloud while at the same time growing on-premises business. That truth finally showed up in Microsoft’s figures. CFO Amy Hood referred to a “larger than expected decline in our transactional on premise server business” in the earnings call.

Margins are not so good in cloud. Selling software license is almost all profit, once you have developed it. Not so with cloud, which requires data centres, networking, and ongoing maintenance. “Our company gross margin percentage declined this quarter driven by our accelerating mix of cloud services in our Intelligent Cloud and Productivity and Business Processes segment offset by higher gross margin percentage performance from products within More Personal Computing,” said Hood.

Office 365 continues to grow. CEO Satya Nadella said that “Commercial Office 365 customers surpassed 70 million monthly active users and we grew seats by 57 percent” year on year. This is key to the company’s health. Customers in Office 365 are hooked to the platform and more likely to buy other services such as Dynamics CRM, Enterprise Mobility Services MDM (Mobile Device Management), or applications hosted on Azure. “Dynamics CRM Online seats more than doubled this quarter with over 80 percent of our new CRM customers deploying in the cloud,” said Nadella.

Windows 10 is being taken up. The nagware is working according to Nadella, who said that “The number of Windows 10 devices is twice that of Windows 7 over the same time period since launch.” Nevertheless I still hear a lot of caution out there, with people advising one another to stick with Windows 7. Windows 10 pushes users more strongly to Microsoft services than 7, with Cortana driven by Bing. “Over 35 percent of our search revenue last month came from Windows 10 devices,” said Nadella.

Windows Phone is dying fast. “For phone we expect year over year revenue declines to deepen in Q4 as we work through our Lumia channel position,” said Hood.

Linux is growing. Nadella made a few comments about SQL Server on Linux and Linux on Azure. Why SQL Server on Linux? “We look at that as an expansion opportunity,” he said. Over 20% of VMs on Azure are Linux, he added. Microsoft made Linux “first class” on Azure in order to be able to host an enterprise’s “entire data estate across Windows and Linux.” People don’t move between operating systems, he said, but “now they have a choice around database.”

I’d add that we are now seeing scenarios where Linux is ahead of Windows on Azure. The new Azure Container service is currently Linux only, for example, though a Windows option is planned.

What Microsoft does with Linux in the coming years will be interesting to see. Office on Linux? Microsoft Android?

A reminder of Microsoft’s segments:

Productivity and Business Processes: Office, both commercial and consumer, including retail sales, volume licenses, Office 365, Exchange, SharePoint, Skype for Business, Skype consumer, OneDrive, Outlook.com. Microsoft Dynamics including Dynamics CRM, Dynamics ERP, both online and on-premises sales.

Intelligent Cloud: Server products not mentioned above, including Windows server, SQL Server, Visual Studio, System Center, as well as Microsoft Azure.

More Personal Computing: What a daft name, more than what? Still, this includes Windows in all its non-server forms, Windows Phone both hardware and licenses, Surface hardware, gaming including Xbox, Xbox Live, and search advertising.

Related posts:

  1. Microsoft financials: Server and Office business still growing
  2. Microsoft’s Server 2012 Essentials: a good replacement for Small Business Server?
  3. Microsoft Small Business Server to Server Essentials R2: not a smooth transition
  4. Microsoft financials: nearly a $billion lost on Surface RT but prospering in server and cloud
  5. Microsoft financials: Office and server dominate as Windows falters

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