01.02.09

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Planting Seeds of Doubt in Microsoft’s Future

Posted in Europe, Finance, Formats, Microsoft, Open XML at 11:37 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

by Rui Seabra, Vice-President of the Board of ANSOL *

Taking into account the almost-exponential growth on the perception of Free Software, I expect its continuity throughout 2009. The year 2008 saw many massive adoptions (in the magnitude of several dozens of thousands each) of Free Software in enterprises and public administrations of various countries. I wouldn’t be too surprised if one comes up in the magnitude of hundreds of thousands of workstations. Big GNU/Linux distributions will continue to publish updated versions, allowing users to take advantage of the latest offerings in the world of Free Software, without needing to wait for several years to view (as in Vista) a failed edition of their operating system.

“A special wish is reserved for that software patents are formally prohibited in the whole world, as they are an impeachment to research and development in the area of informatics.”Open standards, thanks to the Microsoft OOXML fiasco, have become a political slogan. As the saying goes, “bad or good, what matters is that it’s spoken about,” hence even if for the bad reasons, the perception of the importance of open standards grew significantly. I expect strong advances in this area, mostly on what regards strengthening open standards so that they aren’t susceptible to or dependent on secret information only available to a company that dominates the corresponding market.

Namely, I expect a growing number of Open Document Format (ODF) adoptions as an official interchange format between public administrations and both private and collective citizens, as a way of not imposing a software or technology choice with direct financial gains to a designated company. I also wish that the consecutive special authorisations will go beyond the legal limits on non-procurement acquisitions for them to stop happening, which would stop renewals without procurement of workstation software in the value of several millions euros each to companies like Microsoft, SAP, etc. and that both public procurements and non-procurements stop systematically excluding Free Software.

A special wish is reserved for that software patents are formally prohibited in the whole world, as they are an impeachment to research and development in the area of informatics.

Finally, although not wanting to become a “futurologist”, I think there is a strong possibility that Microsoft may file for the north American Chapter 11 — bankruptcy protection. Even though they report big gains, their reports omit several suffering losses, including their unique units with positive value, Windows and Office. If one lowers the expectations several times during the year, we’ll always be able to report overcoming expectations by the end. As an example, if they had bought Yahoo, Microsoft would be, officially, in debt.

___
* Written by Rui Seabra, Vice-President of the Board of ANSOL under the terms of the Creative Commons “Attribution Share Alike” 2.5

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31 Comments

  1. Andre said,

    January 2, 2009 at 2:28 pm

    Gravatar

    “Finally, although not wanting to become a “futurologist”, I think there is a strong possibility that Microsoft may file for the north American Chapter 11 — bankruptcy protection.”

    What is your evidence, Rui? It is illegal in some jurisdictions to spread these rumours about the financial status. The interesting aspect of Chapter 11 is that it enables American companies to start over.

    I heard almost the same one year ago from a famous Dutch IT journalist who claimed he also predicted the collapse of the Soviet Union and said his view was shared throughout the Netherlands.

  2. Roy Schestowitz said,

    January 2, 2009 at 2:41 pm

    Gravatar

    Andre,

    Microsoft is running out of money. That’s a fact, not just a projection. At the same time, its margins are eroding in the few areas that are profitable.

  3. AlexH said,

    January 2, 2009 at 3:00 pm

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    @Roy: it’s a long stretch from “less profitable” and “has debt” (Microsoft is about the only debt-free company of its size) to “Chapter 11 protection”, which makes no sense.

  4. Roy Schestowitz said,

    January 2, 2009 at 3:04 pm

    Gravatar

    it’s already confirmed by the mainstream media that Microsoft is entering debt. You’ll find references in:

    http://boycottnovell.com/2008/09/22/microsoft-debt-ap/
    http://boycottnovell.com/2008/11/20/company-of-debts-ms-2g/
    http://boycottnovell.com/2008/02/27/when-met-mr-debt/
    http://boycottnovell.com/2008/02/04/tax-and-game-of-economics/
    http://boycottnovell.com/2008/03/03/summary-microsoft-financial-situation/

  5. Diamond Wakizashi said,

    January 2, 2009 at 3:05 pm

    Gravatar

    The chair throwing maniac Steve Ballmer must be very unhappy about people learning the truth about his terrible company. Ballmer will be in a maniacal frenzy when people reject the Vista 7 garbageware!

  6. AlexH said,

    January 2, 2009 at 3:11 pm

    Gravatar

    @Roy: I’m not sure you understand my point. Being in debt doesn’t mean anything special; in fact, Microsoft’s debt-free status is extremely rare.

    There is a long, long way from “being in debt”, which is extremely common, to “no longer financially viable” requiring Chapter 11 protection. Suggesting MS need the latter is a struggle.

  7. Roy Bixler said,

    January 2, 2009 at 3:12 pm

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    @AlexH: I agree except that it was the Rui who mentioned the possibility of Chapter 11, not Roy S. Also, it is not the “north American Chapter 11″, but the US Chapter 11. (Although there are certainly those who cynically say that it amounts to the same thing.)

    @Rui: It seems to me that, when you said

    “A special wish is reserved for that software patents are formally prohibited in the whole world, as they are an impeachment to research and development in the area of informatics.”

    you really wanted to say “impediment”. “impeachment” is a legal procedure to remove someone from office. “impediment” is more like a hurdle, a barrier or a burden which seems closer to the message you wanted to convey.

  8. Roy Schestowitz said,

    January 2, 2009 at 3:13 pm

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    AlexH,

    What are its assets? Software patents?

  9. AlexH said,

    January 2, 2009 at 3:24 pm

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    @Roy B: sure. I should have marked that as being a general comment on the article, not just a comment on Roy’s reflections on projection.

    @Roy S: they’re on the balance sheet, that’s how business works.

  10. Roy Schestowitz said,

    January 2, 2009 at 3:25 pm

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    Okay. Let’s see if Rui reads it and responds.

  11. max stirner said,

    January 2, 2009 at 3:33 pm

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    hear, hear! nice analysis, thanks

  12. DOUGman said,

    January 2, 2009 at 5:39 pm

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    “I heard almost the same one year ago from a famous Dutch IT journalist who claimed he also predicted the collapse of the Soviet Union and said his view was shared throughout the Netherlands. ”

    Hmmm?… the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991..

    A French political scientist Emmanuel Todd, forecasted the demise of the Soviet Union — 15 years beforehand.

    D.

  13. twitter said,

    January 2, 2009 at 6:18 pm

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    AlexH writes,

    Being in debt doesn’t mean anything special; in fact, Microsoft’s debt-free status is extremely rare.

    There is something even more rare: making $60 billion cash vanish in less than five years. More on the demise of M$ can be found here. Users, employees, investors and the “mainstream press” have all recognized, “Microsoft is an empire in rapid decline.”

  14. AlexH said,

    January 2, 2009 at 6:52 pm

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    @twitter:

    Actually, that’s pretty easy to answer if you look at the relevant time-frame. The short answer it, it hasn’t vanished.

    Microsoft has absolutely, definitively lost its golden touch. To suggest it’s in rapid decline – eh. Revenue is still growing, as are total assets. “Less cash” is an interesting statistic, but you can’t measure a company by it.

  15. Roy Schestowitz said,

    January 2, 2009 at 6:59 pm

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    You sound like Microsoft press release, Alex.

  16. Jose_X said,

    January 2, 2009 at 7:24 pm

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    >> There is a long, long way from “being in debt”, which is extremely common, to “no longer financially viable” requiring Chapter 11 protection. Suggesting MS need the latter is a struggle.

    Alex, I agree this is generally true (there is a “but” coming up.. sort of).

    I don’t want to dive back into MSFT financial reports. I would want to see a graph of the various relevant numbers over the years. Have they been taking on debt at a much greater speed recently? That itself may not be bad, but we should keep in mind recent troubles they have had with Vista, XBox, etc.

    BTW, stock buybacks can be a bullish move since the company could effectively be in the process of buying cheap.

    Because of how Gates and company have treated other market participants over the years, I would expect them (and many execs actually) to maximize their gains within the law (if possible) at the point they thought might signal some sort of peak. Gates and co have done a good job in the past in how they signal moves and the results that have occurred with MSFT. At some point, this approach (eg, in stressing risks, downplaying gains, etc) will work (is working) to save their hides from lawsuits or prosecution.

    People should consider that MSFT can crash and the company still go forward under bankruptcy protection to try and live another day (chapter 11) or perhaps having sold assets for cheap to someone else (eg, to a private Gates company). The effect would have been that all the MS cash and the debt taken on would have helped bail out a lot more investors of today and of the past. Those holding the hot potato, however, would.. well, just look at what has been happening in the financial industry. Eg, wamuq (Washington Mutual) is at 3 cents. The pension funds are likely to be sacrificed for the benefit of the billionaires.

    While some companies may do well this year, I would not be surprised if some others or if a great many others (including “blue chip”) continue to collapse. MSFT would be a candidate for such an implosion.

    But “Microsoft might in fact simply be buying cheap” — Gates and co have done their homework.

    PS: the stock options debt is possibly continuing to build a lowering ceiling. MSFT stock may have no long term future. A crash would allow some other company(-ies) and respective investors/VCs to benefit greatly at the chopping block. Stick the public with the bill while the billionaires buy dirt cheap. People need to understand that you have to spend money to make money. You will see “small” private fortunes lost in order that large fortunes be made later on ..or after large fortunes were already made. ..That’s been my layman’s observation.

  17. G. Michaels said,

    January 2, 2009 at 7:48 pm

    Gravatar

    Watch out for ‘twitter’, the loveable nymshifter troll.

    Note: writer of this comment adds absolutely nothing but stalking and personal attacks against readers, as documented here.

  18. Jose_X said,

    January 2, 2009 at 7:57 pm

    Gravatar

    I would keep an eye on “goodwill” and also on things like “receivables”. I’d guess these are great areas to work accounting magic. [Receivables could end up being written off. Maybe deals with too many strings or doubt of repayment (higher risk of default) were booked this way.. at least relative to the past when customer accounts may have been kept lower.] [Goodwill (eg, patents) might not be properly valued especially since Bilski.]

    Also, Microsoft is not above taking on risky investments. Which of their investments have these hidden risks of default or of extreme devaluation? Barings Bank (google this one.. note the reputation and history of this bank before the sudden collapse) was brought down not many years ago because of maverick derivatives investors. Others may have heard of Enron, etc.

    Even if Microsoft falls, btw, someone else may end up effectively running a similar business (having bought the assets).

    Now, Microsoft may actually be far from failing. They may be the beneficiaries of the buying of a lot of distressed properties that might be salvaged in time (eg, with the help of Uncle Sam).

    For maximum effect, I think, before their end, Microsoft would tap into all of their resources (eg, by taking on as much debt as possible, playing with goodwill valuations, booking dubious deals, …) in order to acquire as much as possible (companies and MSFT stock) to later have all of that be sold off to private investors at bargain prices (before or during a bankruptcy stage). Microsoft is the sort of company with the ethics that would be willing to pull this off without a second thought — that is part of the danger in owning MSFT (win big/ lose big).

  19. Roy Schestowitz said,

    January 2, 2009 at 8:01 pm

    Gravatar

    The buybacks can’t carry on for much longer. Had they not engaged in them, they would probably would have seen the stock sinking to about $13 and their market value equate Google’s. But they would have had cash reserves, not debt.

  20. G. Michaels said,

    January 2, 2009 at 8:06 pm

    Gravatar

    Are you an economist by any chance? I’m actually wondering where you got this idea that debt == layoffs, especially for a company with such a massive cash flow as Microsoft.

    Do you know that Microsoft is actually a rarity in the corporate world because they have no debt? Most corporations are in some level of debt, and it’s not considered detrimental in any way, except when it’s excessive, in which case the whole thing simply collapses like the financial giants of a few months back.

    Again, what is your source for the relationship between debt and layoffs? I’m not saying layoffs won’t happen, I just want to understand why you’re tying them to this mysterious debt which so far I haven’t seen you offer proof of at all. Do you have some sort of economic education background at all, or what is your source, exactly?

    Note: writer of this comment adds absolutely nothing but stalking and personal attacks against readers, as documented here.

  21. Jose_X said,

    January 2, 2009 at 8:09 pm

    Gravatar

    G. Michaels, I read twitter’s comment above as well as yours. Guess which one sounds like a troll. So we have a troll calling someone else a troll. I don’t know. Should I trust the troll?

    Are you being paid per post criticizing twitter? But do you then get deductions for each post that does you a disservice?

    Do you get paid for changing the subject or was that just a byproduct of the real job against twitter?

    I have to ask these questions. I mean you are leaving an ugly streak behind. I don’t do slashdot. Your talk about slashdot this and that is not very useful to me. I don’t care to spend time there to verify all your allegations. Twitter doesn’t deny using multiple handles, but I don’t see how that is material here. What does that have to do with twitter’s comment above? Are you suggesting Jose_X is twitter as well? Maybe twitter is a genius. Maybe he or she or they have a trip with how much attention you are giving twitter?

  22. Jose_X said,

    January 2, 2009 at 8:12 pm

    Gravatar

    G. Michaels, OK, I see you posted something that appears to be a real post. The twitter bit was just for harassment. I understand. It was probably unavoidable.

  23. Roy Schestowitz said,

    January 2, 2009 at 8:25 pm

    Gravatar

    He’s on a smear marathon against this Web site and everyone that posts here. He could be a Microsoft TE given the time and efforts he puts into it.

  24. G. Michaels said,

    January 2, 2009 at 8:39 pm

    Gravatar

    I understand. It was probably unavoidable.

    If it’s any consolation at all, I wasn’t exactly looking for your approval :)

    I think people deserve to know who they’re dealing with, that’s all. Roy has soooo many readers other than the 5-8 that constantly pile praise on him that might not know about the internet’s greatest nymshifter after this Gary M. Stewart friend of Roy’s (god that’s a lot of identities, assuming they’re true).

    Plus it’s a little payback for all the crap he did to Slashdot.

    Note: writer of this comment adds absolutely nothing but stalking and personal attacks against readers, as documented here.

  25. G. Michaels said,

    January 2, 2009 at 8:52 pm

    Gravatar

    He could be a Microsoft TE

    Oh now – THAT is some evidence I would love to lay my tired eyes on!

    given the time and efforts he puts into it.

    It seems to me that if Microsoft was actually paying me to do anything here, you would spend all your waking hours pasting little red notices on my posts instead of actually writing your blog and dealing with that absolute deluge of traffic that you claim to have. I don’t know, I put in a full 8-10 hours a day at my actual job, so that would be a complete nightmare for you. Wouldn’t you agree?

    It’s funny how it’s always you and your friend twitter who claim they are the targets of “effort”. It takes no effort to type some stuff into a textbox, Roy. In fact the most effort I’ve gone to so far is my investigation into your smears, but that was actually fun and hit close to home because I love Wikipedia so much.

    BTW, are you planning on removing Huge’s name from the headline soon? Just wondering.

    Anyway, the wife will be be back from her clan’s traditional New Year’s Brunch Gone Wild and I have to get ready for some Wii gaming with my kid. I have a feeling I’m gonna get trounced again :)

    Note: writer of this comment adds absolutely nothing but stalking and personal attacks against readers, as documented here.

  26. Jose_X said,

    January 2, 2009 at 9:56 pm

    Gravatar

    GM, I understand you want the title to that other piece fixed to remove Jimmi’s name, but why don’t you first address directly these comments made by Slated and which I feel no one has properly rebuttalled. [I have not looked at the page diffs for myself since I felt I could follow along the thread just fine and have not seen anyone challenge certain key points in Slated's arguments.]

    ..and I don’t mean “rebuttal” with this kind of response that completely avoids the argument to spout insults: http://boycottnovell.com/2008/12/29/jimmi-hugh-wikipedia-censorship-on-ms/#comment-56933

    Here is the beef of Slated’s argument:
    http://boycottnovell.com/2008/12/29/jimmi-hugh-wikipedia-censorship-on-ms/#comment-56920
    http://boycottnovell.com/2008/12/29/jimmi-hugh-wikipedia-censorship-on-ms/#comment-56931
    *http://boycottnovell.com/2008/12/29/jimmi-hugh-wikipedia-censorship-on-ms/#comment-56933
    *http://boycottnovell.com/2008/12/29/jimmi-hugh-wikipedia-censorship-on-ms/#comment-56940
    **http://boycottnovell.com/2008/12/29/jimmi-hugh-wikipedia-censorship-on-ms/#comment-56941
    *http://boycottnovell.com/2008/12/29/jimmi-hugh-wikipedia-censorship-on-ms/#comment-57266

    You can focus on the * comments, btw. The ** comment has the extra star because it’s addressed to me and I noticed Slated misunderstood my comment, but that reply is also relevant here.

    PS: GM, your replies on BN aren’t all attacks, but you do yourself as much a disservice when you do attack (eg, “payback”) as would anyone else attacking anyone else, especially the times when you avoid others’ noteworthy points and because the verbal aggression is so repetitive.

  27. The Mad Hatter said,

    January 3, 2009 at 4:22 am

    Gravatar

    Based on what I am seeing personally, yes, Microsoft will have serious problems in the near future. My definition of near future is within 10 years. However, it’s also possible (if unlikely) that they could avoid this. To avoid the coming train wreck, they would have to:

    1) Completely overhaul management, including severing all relations with Ballmer and Gates.

    2) Make massive changes to strategic corporate plans.

    And quite frankly I don’t see that the company, or it’s board have either the guts or the foresight to do this. Quite frankly they remind me of the General Motors of ten years ago. Arrogant, and brainless.

    Note that this is my personal evaluation of the situation. I’ve been known to be wrong before, but in this case I’m pretty certain I’m right.

  28. AlexH said,

    January 3, 2009 at 5:16 am

    Gravatar

    @Roy: you do this constantly. If anyone says anything factual about Microsoft, you accuse them of being a shill or being sympathetic. Microsoft entering Chapter 11 is a world of make-believe, and pointing that out doesn’t make me a Microsoft fan.

  29. Roy Schestowitz said,

    January 3, 2009 at 5:19 am

    Gravatar

    I didn’t say Microsoft would file Chapter 11. It might, but not next year.

  30. AlexH said,

    January 3, 2009 at 5:36 am

    Gravatar

    @Roy: I didn’t say that you made that claim, but that’s the part of the article I was commenting on.

  31. Rui Seabra said,

    January 6, 2009 at 2:55 am

    Gravatar

    It is illegal in some jurisdictions to spread these rumours about the financial status.

    Oooo, now I am scared and will crawl under a rock (NOT!).

    If you’ll get a direct monetary benefit in the stock exchange by that, you could be in trouble, but one I’m not spreading any rumour, the data is out there; two, that is merely an extrapolation over said data.

    Next you’ll tell me It is illegal to write an opinion about what might happen…

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