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May 31, 2006

Standby for Vista marketing blitz

Posted by David Hunter at 8:44 PM ET.

David Boschman points out that Microsoft today officially launched a new Vista marketing web site at to show “early versions of ISV and Customer solutions that are in development for Windows Vista.” They got actor Tom Skerritt to host the show and the videos are glitzy if not very technical, but it’s difficult to see exactly why Vista is required for most of the applications. I guess the site isn’t so much an argument for Vista as a spiffy way of showing off Vista reference customers.

All of which serves to remind that it’s been a while since Microsoft launched a client OS and we can expect a marketing and PR extravaganza as it gets down to the wire.

Filed under General Business, Marketing, Microsoft, OS - Client, Public Relations, Windows Vista

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Windows Live OneCare arrives a day early

Posted by David Hunter at 2:32 PM ET.

Earlier than rumor predicted, Microsoft is launching Windows Live OneCare today after a lengthy public beta. Robert McMillan at InfoWorld:

Microsoft is set to release a fully supported version of its Windows Live OneCare software, marking its entry into the security software market.

OneCare will be available for download Wednesday on Microsoft’s Web site, a day earlier than expected. By Thursday, the software is expected to be widely available in U.S. retail stores, said Microsoft’s Samantha McManus, a business strategy manager with Windows Live OneCare.

The software will begin shipping outside the U.S. “within the next year,” she said, declining to say which country would be the first to follow the U.S. launch.

The OneCare web site is here and for reference, here’s the official press release.

Competitors Symantec and McAfee are readying their responses, Norton 360 (formerly codenamed Genesis) and Falcon respectively.

Filed under Coopetition, McAfee, Microsoft, Symantec, Windows Live, Windows Live OneCare

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Ballmer offers cold comfort to Microsoft investors

Posted by David Hunter at 1:56 PM ET.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer’s excellent adventure on Wall Street got off to a predictable start today. Daisuke Wakabayashi at Reuters:

Under pressure from Microsoft Corp. investors to return a portion of the company’s $35 billion cash reserve and revive a flagging share price, Chief Executive Steve Ballmer on Wednesday defended the company’s “first-class problem” of having too much cash.

Ballmer, speaking to investors at the Sanford C. Bernstein Strategic Decisions conference, said Microsoft prefers to have the cash on hand in order to take risks on new technology and other things important to the company’s operations.

“It is likely I will continue to have to discuss with you for many years why we have as much cash as we do,” Ballmer said on a Web cast. “At the same time, I think it’s fair to say we want to return cash to shareholders.”

While he didn’t break out Microsoft’s wallet, he did remind the audience of past largesse:

Ballmer noted that Microsoft has returned $87 billion in cash to shareholders since June 30, 2001, but said he understands shareholder wishes to see more of the company’s cash through dividends and share buybacks.

Microsoft began paying a yearly dividend to shareholders in 2003 for the first time since it went public in 1986, and in 2004 paid out $32 billion in a special dividend of $3 a share.

“At the end of the day, the cash belongs to the investors. We are not going to blow that. We are not going to screw around with that,” Ballmer said in a rare appearance at an investor conference.

I believe that is the equivalent of “all our bets pay off,” but then Mr. Ballmer is always exuberant.

Practically, it’s once again the argument of whether Microsoft is a growth stock or a value stock. Management says “growth” and investors are saying “value.” Since the chances of the investors replacing top management are low, the disconnect between the two likely implies that the share price will continue to languish. In the long run, we’ll get to see who’s right.

Disclaimer: If you somehow view any of the above as investment advice, you shouldn’t.

Update 6/14: I just discovered Mitch Ratcliffe’s interesting analysis of the whole Ballmer gestalt which is indicative of the credibility problems that Microsoft executive management is currently facing with investors.

Filed under Executives, Financial, General Business, Investor Relations, Microsoft, Steve Ballmer

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May 30, 2006

Google’s ad revenue share increases in 1Q

Posted by David Hunter at 5:16 PM ET.

Rachel Rosmarin at Forbes:

Dollars earned from online advertising reached a new peak in the first quarter of 2006, while Google’s share of those dollars continues to grow.

Internet advertising revenues totaled $3.9 billion in the first quarter, according to data released Tuesday from the Interactive Advertising Bureau and PricewaterhouseCoopers, up 38% from the year-ago quarter and 6% from the previous quarter.

But each quarter, Google’s revenue growth has outpaced the overall growth of the market. In the year-ago quarter, Google’s $1.26 billion in revenues were worth 45% of the $2.8 billion in total Internet advertising revenues. Last quarter, Google’s share was 53%, and in the first quarter of 2006, Google’s portion came to 58% of the total.

There are also some new search stats in the full article, but it’s all a familiar tune: Google is leaving Yahoo and Microsoft in the dust. Here’s a closing factoid:

Google will earn approximately $23 per U.S. Internet user in 2006, according to Merrill Lynch analyst Justin Post.

$23 here, $23 there – pretty soon you’re talking the license fee for Microsoft Windows on the user’s PC.

Filed under Advertising, Coopetition, Financial, General Business, Google, Licensing, Live Search, MSN, MSN Search, Microsoft, Online Services, Windows Live, Yahoo, adCenter

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