Thursday , October 21 2021

Microsoft's miracle: how tech titan rebounded to take on Apple again



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The fearful battering handed out to FAANG stocks – Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google's owner Alphabet – since the late summer had a very unexpected side effect.

For the first time since October, its share price has lost a quarter of its value since 3 October, losing its title as the world's most expensive company.

Moreover, it has not been over this time by Amazon, which briefly beat Apple in September that particular accolade.

Instead, it has been surpassed by Microsoft, a business that has many years of been excited about the FAANGs.

Microsoft's stock market valuation on Monday briefly hit $ 812.93bn (£ 633.85bn), against just $ 812.60bn (£ 633.61bn) for Apple, with Amazon trailing on $ 773bn (£ 602bn). But, if recent trends continue, Microsoft might well recapture the number one spot again in the coming days.

Employees walk in front of a shop
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For a brief time, Microsoft overtook Apple as the world's most expensive company

It represents a quite a comeback by Microsoft, which was last a more valuable company than Apple as long ago as 2010, while you have to go all the way back to 2003 to find a time when company co-founded by Bill Gates and Paul Allen – who died last month – was the world's biggest

The reversal of fortune is not only due to Apple's share price, which reflects concerns over the Christmas period during iPhones, iPads and Apple Watches of sales, as well as the extent to which the company hit By tariffs on electronic devices, like Apple's, that are assembled in China.

It also reflects the turnaround achieved by Satya Nadella, who became Microsoft's CEO in February 2014, succeeding Steve Ballmer.

The contrast between the two men could not be greater

Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Satya Narayana Nadella
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Indian-born executive Satya Narayan Nadella has rebuilt Microsoft

Mr. Ballmer, a big bear of a man, was noisy, raucous, brash and aggressive in how he ran the business.

He positioned Microsoft as a fierce opponent of open-source software, such as the internet browsers Mozilla and Firefox, which is open to anyone to look at or modify and which is collaboratively supported by programmers.

Mr Ballmer hated that.

He described the Linux operating system, one of the best examples of open-source software, as a "cancer". He considered it as an existential threat to commercial producers of code like Microsoft. It did not create a image of Microsoft as a customer-friendly business. It reinforced Microsoft's image as a company hated by techies and regulators alike.

Mr. Ballmer's biggest mistake was to be the growing threats of Apple, Google and Facebook in the early 2000s.

Microsoft, whose Windows product was dominated desktop computing, was slow to anticipate the challenges of PCs posed by products like the iPad while Google's development of the Android mobile operating system ensured that Microsoft did not have PCs as it did in the smartphone sector. Similarly, the rise of social networks like Facebook was completely missed.



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Video:
September: Apple unveils bigger – and pricier – iPhones

Microsoft sought to get lost ground through acquisitions. But Mr Ballmer's biggest, the $ 8.5bn takeover of internet phone service Skype in 2011, failed to generate the cross-selling opportunities he hoped it would. His $ 7.2bn acquisition of Nokia's mobile handset business in 2013 and his $ 6.3bn acquisition of digital advertising firm aQuantive in 2007 both destroyed shareholder value.

Accordingly, when Mr Nadella – a very quieter and calmer figure – assumed control, Microsoft was a challenged business. The Indian-born executive has rebuilt it in many ways Where once Microsoft dominated the PC market, Mr Nadella has invested heavily in the cloud, ensuring that the company now offers a range of services, including networking, software, databases, servers and storage, over the internet.

Although the cloud is dominated by Amazon Web Services, Microsoft has now established itself as a strong number two in the market with its Azure platform, overtaking Google along the way. Mr Nadella has also shrewdly positioned Microsoft as the company with whom retailers should partner in e-commerce if they want to do the business of Amazon's cloud computing platform.

Cloud computing and artificial intelligence are clear where Microsoft anticipates its growth coming from in years to come, rather than its legacy software businesses, though these are advantageous

In gaming, Sony's PlayStation console is probably an unassailable lead, but Microsoft's Xbox seems to have been against its own Nintendo while the company actually makes more than gaming software thanks to gaming software, in part, Mojang $ 2.5bn acquisition, the company behind Minecraft, seven months after Mr Nadella becomes CEO

Mr Nadella has also placed bets on other services, such as augmented reality, with products like the HoloLens headset.

But perhaps his greatest achievement has been reverted to Microsoft as a "cool" company in Silicon Valley instead of the boastful, unloved company it was under Mr Ballmer.



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Video:
Microsoft urges UK companies to embrace AI

The $ 26bn acquisition in 2016 of LinkedIn brought the social network's co-founder Reid Hoffman, one of the best-connected figures in the Valley, on the Microsoft board.

Mr Nadella introduced popular Valley activities like hackathons to Microsoft for the first time. And, most symbolically of all, he is more ready to build bridges with geekdom when, earlier this year, he paid $ 7.5bn (£ 5.9bn) for GitHub, which is used by 28 million software developers to work on and store their code, the very kind of business

That's the change of style The change of emphasis within the business has rebuilt profits and changes the way investors look at it. Its full-year results, published in July, has confirmed that it has notched up $ 100bn (£ 78.42bn) worth of its first time and is more profitable than any point in its 43-year history.

How ridiculous it is that Microsoft, which spent the early years of this century with the battles with regulators, has reasserted itself in the tech world at a time when Facebook, Google and Amazon, like young opponents, now have become increasingly in control of those regulators .

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