What Microsoft chose to highlight in its product strategies at its annual gathering of financial analysts was, not too surprisingly, focused on areas that the company feels have been overlooked.
So while Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) senior executives talked plenty this week at the company’s Build conference in Anaheim about Windows 8 and Windows Server 8, at its annual Financial Analysts Meeting (FAM) — also held in Anaheim this year for the first time — the execs honed in on other strategic product areas and challenges that are also key to the company’s long-term survival.
The company traditionally holds its FAM event at its corporate headquarters in Redmond, Wash. in mid-summer, as a way to bring the investment community up to speed on the finer points of its just-closed fiscal year and to layout a roadmap of sorts to what its upcoming plans hold.
Among the products executives discussed this year were Xbox and Kinect game technologies, Bing and other search-related topics such as Microsoft’s deal with Yahoo, cloud technologies like Windows Azure, and applications such as SharePoint, SQL Server, and the Dynamics line of CRM and ERP products, as well as infrastructure including Microsoft’s Active Directory, System Center management tools, and the Intune online PC management suite.
For instance, while it doesn’t draw as much attention as Windows 8, Kevin Turner, Microsoft’s chief operating officer, said that Office 365, the company’s cloud-based application suite has already sold some five million seats since the package became commercially available last winter.
Also on the agenda at the FAM event was Microsoft’s long-term investment in Bing and other search technologies. Qi Lu, president of Microsoft’s Online Services Division, told the gathering of analysts that despite the continuous financial losses that Bing has sustained, it is crucial for the company’s future.
“Search is the gateway for people to make decisions,” he added. Instead of people searching on, for example, “Southwest” in order to print boarding passes on Southwest Airlines, it would seem to be more logical to be able to search on “print boarding passes.”
“We need to change the game rather than trying to ‘out Google Google’,” he said.
Also overlooked, or underappreciated, is Microsoft’s venerable Office desktop productivity suite.
“Office is our biggest business, CEO Steve Ballmer said, adding that he gets the most questions regarding the company’s nearly $70 billion in revenue for fiscal 2011 around Windows, Windows Phone, and cloud computing.
Despite all of the rhetoric regarding the so-called “post PC era,” Ballmer said, the company is still focused on its fundamentals — after all, a third of all PCs sold go to enterprises and, while change is accelerating in that market the future isn’t here yet.
“Transition to the cloud is very early, but it probably has the most impact over time. [Still] Windows is at the center of our go forward strategy,” Ballmer added.