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Microsoft To Host Annual Financial Analyst Meeting

Microsoft will host a crowd of financial analysts on campus Thursday for its annual financial analyst meeting. In attendance, analysts whose opinions help make or break the company's stock price. And this year's event, dubbed the Microsoft Financial Analyst Meeting 2006, promises to be the most important in recent years.

Much has changed for Microsoft in the past year. The company has restructured -- twice. Chairman Bill Gates announced he will leave in two years. An outsider -- Ray Ozzie, creator of Lotus Notes -- has already succeeded to Gates' position as corporate visionary and chief software architect.

At the same time, Microsoft has had to delay its pending blockbuster, Windows Vista, yet again. With it comes the delay of 2007 Office System. Vista's server counterpart, Longhorn Server, is also delayed. A major insider, corporate vice president Jim Allchin, is on his way out -- scheduled to retire as soon as his chief responsibility, which is to ship Vista -- is accomplished.

Meanwhile, the company rebranded all of its corporate offerings under its Microsoft Dynamics label. And perhaps more important for the future of the company, with Gates and Ozzie convinced software as services (SaS) is the direction to move, it has aggressively launched (or relaunched) its Microsoft Live services initiative.

Analysts and journalists from around the world will attend the annual day-long gathering, where the company's senior executives outline for them all the public plans they have on tap, and present their views on which technologies and strategies will change the computing landscape and -- ultimately -- continue bringing in the cash.

Why now, in the dog days of summer? Microsoft's fiscal year ends June 30, and it announced its annual revenues and earnings in a call with many of those same analysts last week.

Microsoft reported it took in almost $44.3 billion last year, a healthy 11 percent bump from fiscal 2005. But net income remained nearly flat year to year. The company is also about to spend large amounts of cash on stock buyback programs, new buildings and more developers, and is planning on spending more lavishly on R&D.

During the day's presentations and in private meetings with key players, officials intend to do their best to convince both the analysts and press that everything is as it should be going forward. Their reports back to their firms and news outlets at the end of the day have come to be a kind of bellwether of how successful Microsoft's executives have been in relaying the company's plans and goals for the year.

Thursday morning's lineup of speakers includes CEO Steve Ballmer, co-president of the Platforms and Services Division Kevin Johnson, senior vice president of the Server and Tools Business Bob Muglia, president of the Business Division Jeff Raikes, president of the Entertainment and Devices Division Robbie Bach, and chief software architect Ozzie.

In the afternoon, Ballmer will speak again, as well as COO Kevin Turner, chief research and strategy officer Craig Mundie, and CFO Chris Liddell. Notably absent from the speakers' list: Bill Gates.

About the Author

Stuart J. Johnston has covered technology, especially Microsoft, since February 1988 for InfoWorld, Computerworld, Information Week, and PC World, as well as for Enterprise Developer, XML & Web Services, and .NET magazines.

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