Further Meditations on Microsoft

Today’s long-rumored layoffs and poor earnings have left Microsoft’s stock price down over 10% — an unheard-of drop for the company.

On the one hand, Microsoft’s new market cap of $150B is absurdly low in light of the fact that they’ve got over $30B in cash on hand. Add to that cash the value of their worldwide tangible assets — buildings, data centers, etc. — and you probably come close, if not over, the $150B figure. Looked at this way, Microsoft stock at less than $18/share is probably a great buying opportunity.

On the other hand, one look at Microsoft’s business “strategy” is enough to keep the wallet closed. Microsoft’s approach in many categories seems to be: build a product that is incrementally better than the entrenched competitor’s, and then play by the competitor’s rules in the marketplace. Of course, playing by your competitor’s rules never gets you anywhere. The Zune is a me-too iPod with a me-too business plan to match; Silverlight is a me-too Flash — but Adobe already has 99.7% market penetration. Forget hurling an unstoppable cannonball at an unbreakable wall: Microsoft is trying to break its competitor’s walls by tickling them with feathers.