The software giant says that strong sales of business services, and the company’s cost control efforts, offset the weakening demand for its Xbox gaming console and related services. Microsoft generated net income of $5.1B, down 2.4% vs the same period last year, on revenues of $17.4B, up 6.0%. The revenue figure was ahead of the $17.2B that analysts forecast. And earnings at 60 cents a share beat predictions of 58 cents. The news sent shares up about 2.5% in early after-market trading. Microsoft says that revenues for its Server & Tools business were up 14% to $4.6B. Microsoft Business was up 9% to $5.8B, due in part to strong sales of Office 2010. The Windows 7 operating system also remains popular as Microsoft plans to roll out Windows 8; the Windows and Windows Live operation generated $4.6B in revenues, up 4%. But the Entertainment & Devices Division was down 16% to $1.6B. The company attributes that to the “soft gaming console market.” The company says that it expects operating expenses of as much as $28.7B for the fiscal year that ends in June — down slightly from its prediction in January of as much as $28.9B. “We’re driving toward exciting launches across the entire company, while delivering strong financial results,” CEO Steve Ballmer says.
UPDATE, 7:10 AM: AOL’s hitting 52-week highs with its stock floating around $26.30 in early hours trading, up more than 42%. Miller Tabak & Co analyst David Joyce raised his target price to $30 from his short term expectation of $22 and long term prediction of $27. He notes that AOL is keeping patents that “are still in areas critical to AOL growth, including advertising, search, content generation & management, social networking, mapping, multimedia/streaming, and security.” Microsoft is getting ”access to protection in areas it deems strategic such as advertising and webmail.”
PREVIOUS, 4:08 AM: AOL shares are up more than 35% in pre-market trading moments after CEO Tim Armstrong agreed to unload more than 800 patents in a portfolio that he recently referred to as “beachfront property in East Hampton.” AOL says it will “return a significant portion of the sale proceeds to shareholders.” The company will decide what form the investor benefit will take by year end, when it expects the deal to close. Armstrong has been under intense pressure to do something with the patents which involve processes for handling things like e-commerce, travel navigation, and search-related advertising. Activist investor Jeffrey Smith, whose Starboard Value owns 5.2% of AOL, recently said that Armstrong should treat a potential sale with “a sense of urgency due to the relatively short remaining lives of some of the material patents.” Armstrong says that the deal “unlocks current dollar value for our shareholders and enables AOL to continue to aggressively execute on our strategy to create long-term shareholder value.” Microsoft has agreed to pay AOL $211.2M if regulators block the deal, according to an SEC filing.
Here’s the release:
Microsoft’s making progress with its effort to turn its Xbox gaming console into the central brain for home entertainment. The company said Monday that it has an agreement with News Corp which will provide apps this year to funnel content from Fox Broadcasting, Fox News, and The Wall Street Journal to customers of the XBox Live service — with security to ensure that only pay TV customers see the cable programming. In addition, Microsoft has an arrangement to offer video from Comcast’s Xfinity On Demand, and a deal with Verizon FiOS to create a program guide app. The announcements were part of Microsoft chief Steve Ballmer’s keynote presentation to the 2012 International CES — supposedly his last annual infomercial address to the consumer electronics gathering. With help from American Idol’s Ryan Seacrest, he used the occasion to lay out his vision of a home where people make voice commands to the Xbox to find and call up TV programs, and use its Kinect motion control sensor to interact with TV characters. “We invest for the long term and make exciting things happen,” he said. The company demonstrated its interactive TV capability with Kinect Sesame Street TV; for example, kids can pretend they’re tossing objects that the show’s characters catch, and view themselves on screen engaging with the action.
I’m told that Sony is indeed sounding out cable programmers including Discovery, NBCUniversal, and News Corp to see whether they’re willing to cut deals to have their shows streamed to Sony devices such as PlayStations and Blu-ray players. The Japanese tech and entertainment giant is thinking about a model that would resemble Amazon’s with its new Kindle Fire tablet: It might cut the price of the devices, and count on subscription payments to make up the lost revenues. But nothing is imminent. And the feeling is that The Wall Street Journal, which broke the news about Sony’s plans this morning, pushed too hard on the possibility that the tech and entertainment giant might end up with a full-fledged rival to cable TV. Sony has raised the idea with programmers of offering channels live, just as they’d appear on cable. Insiders tell me, though, that there’s only a remote possibility that Sony will make much headway with that idea — except perhaps with minor networks that have few carriage deals. They consider it significant that Sony is telling programmers that it is open to creating a more conventional subscription VOD service like Netflix, Amazon, or Hulu Plus. Google, Apple, Microsoft, and Samsung have also been sniffing around to see what programming they can offer via the Internet, and on what terms. Meanwhile, pay TV companies are working on TV Everywhere deals so they can stream shows to subscribers’ digital devices.
The companies say they don’t expect the government to raise antitrust concerns: They’ll continue to compete with each other — but in a way that reduces “friction” for advertisers who want to move display ads between platforms. They’re positioning this alliance as a first step to distinguish their “high-quality inventory” from other sites that advertisers would consider less attractive. Other companies with “high-quality inventory” are welcome to join. The partners hope the program will help to drive up unit costs for their ads, but they say that they don’t know yet how much of an increase they might see. Here’s the release describing how the new plan will work:
REDMOND, Wash., SUNNYVALE, Calif. and NEW YORK, Nov. 8, 2011 – Yahoo! (NASDAQ:YHOO), Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT) and AOL (NYSE: AOL) today announced agreements that should dramatically improve the process of buying and selling premium online display inventory. The agreements will allow ad networks operated by Yahoo!, Microsoft and AOL to offer each other’s premium nonreserved online display inventory to their respective advertising customers.
While agencies and advertisers can continue to choose to partner across Yahoo! Network Plus, AOL’s Advertising.com and the Microsoft Media Network (each of which is differentiated by its capabilities around data, optimization, packaging and inventory), this partnership will also offer the efficiency of buying premium display inventory at scale to reach customers and audiences. Simultaneously, the partnership should enhance the demand for and value of each party’s display advertising offerings as well as provide better yield for both participating publishers and advertisers.
Here’s a deal that would reshape the online streaming business and set Netflix on its heels: Apple is “considering making a bid” for Hulu, Bloomberg reports today citing two people “with knowledge of the auction.” The story says …