Funny how the articles bash the RT, mention the price reduction, but then tell the real truth of a general downturn in PC sales. I understand the RT has not sold what Microsoft predicted, but what if the price reduction was 6 months ago? The RT is a very good tablet and I always felt it needed to be $299 from the beginning. That might not be a realistic price as far as economics go, but Microsoft lost money on each early Xbox they sold but made up for it on Xbox live subscriptions and some of the games. Now the Xbox is very successful and most of my friend's kids use the Xbox for online games, watching movies, etc. It is their "computer" for most of the day. That did not happen over night, even with tough competition from Playstation and Nintendo game systems. Nowadays nothing gets a chance anymore. It needs to be a hit right out of the box. It is the law of the jungle out there: eat or be eaten! Roar!!!!! lol
I don't pay too much attention to these quarterly reports because more often than not they always paint a partial picture that serves the purposes of financial analysts who are in the market for quick turnovers. My view of MS's finances and business prospects are similar to the view that I have held - now for sometime - about the American economy. My view is that America is in the midst of a deep readjustment - from an industrial economy to an informational and knowledge-centric one. This takes time and is often painful. Paradigms are changing; ways of doing things are changing and people - who have been brought up within a certain mind-set - find it difficult to adjust to the emergent realities. This process takes a few generations for these changes are changes in fundamentals. Then there are mistakes that are inevitably made, which add to the misery. Most analysts that I have met and whose work I read and monitor on a daily basis seem to trump up the "catastrophe scenario". But they do so only because (1) their analytical timeframes are short (max 10 years or so) and (2) because their investments - linked to the aforementioned short-time frames - have to yield appreciable returns for the investors. Additionally, I have found that these analysts are also unable to identify with the changes that on the horizon and even if they do see them, they are unable to comprehend the scale and depth of the transformations - social, economic and political - that are taking place.
I think the same is the case with MS - particularly with their gradual reorientation to the Devices and Services model. For MS this is nothing less than a monumental shift. And, transformations like these don't take place in a single quarter or even in a single financial year. They take time and they cost money. MS has the money to effect such a transformation. And, from what I hear, they do have the time - as long as they don't lose their nerve. But MS has also made mistakes. They have rushed products and services into the market which were half-baked. Then they have an image problem - especially in the consumer space. But I get the impression that this is changing.
And, about the US$900 Million write-off for the Surface - that is MS paying for its mistakes, which were (1) releasing the Surface (both lines) in a lackluster mode; (2) getting the pricing wrong (arguably, the RT could have been sold for much less than what they did at release); (3) not having dedicated an inordinate amount of resources on the App market etc.
I would give MS about 6-8 quarters in the consumer space. Why? See the dramatic improvement in their online business. See the rate at which they have reduced their losses. I foresee a similar story playing out in their devices segment, which going forward cannot be disassociated from their (online) services segment.
Of course, YMMV on all of the above and like Richard Bach wrote - everything above could be absolutely wrong!