When Microsoft reports its fiscal first-quarter earnings Thursday, it will be using a new reporting structure
to better reflect the software giant’s transformation into a devices-and-services company.
Previously, Microsoft had reported earnings largely along the lines of its five business divisions, such as Windows, Business (which includes Office and Dynamics) and Online Services.
Starting Thursday, the company will report earnings broken largely into two broad categories — Devices & Consumer and Commercial — and five segments within those categories.
These five segments somewhat reflect a huge reorganization the company began this summer.
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Here’s how it breaks down:
The Devices and Consumer category includes:
• Hardware (Surface, Xbox and Xbox Live, and other hardware)
• Licensing (Windows device manufacturers, Windows Phone, Office consumer, and intellectual property)
• Other (Bing and MSN, Office 365 Home Premium, first-party video games, marketplaces)
The Commercial category includes:
• Licensing (Windows enterprise, server products, Office for businesses, Dynamics, unified communications)
•Other (enterprise services, Office 365, Azure, Dynamics CRM Online)
The Commercial category also includes corporate-level activities not attributed to any specific segment.
Chief Financial Officer Amy Hood had said last month that the company will report revenue and gross margin for each of the five segments, and operating income for the two broad categories.
This new structure means revenue from some products or services — such as Windows or Office — will be divided into several areas.
Depending on how detailed Microsoft is in its reporting, it may be more difficult to determine sales and profit/loss for certain products.
But several analysts believe the new structure will do the opposite and result in more disclosure.
“I applaud it,” said Brent Thill, an analyst with UBS Investment Bank. “It gives you more detail of what’s going on.”
Norman Young, an analyst with Morningstar, sees the change as a “net benefit.”
“Now we’ll actually know how the product lines break down between commercial and consumer,” Young said. “In the past, we’ve had to guess.”
Microsoft has said that it will report first-quarter earnings using both the new structure and the older one to ease the transition.
Wall Street analysts, according to a consensus estimate, expect Microsoft to report sales of $17.77 billion and earnings per share of 54 cents on profit of $4.51 billion, according to Bloomberg.
Last year, the company reported quarterly revenue of $16.01 billion and earnings of 53 cents per share on profit of $4.47 billion.
Thill expects revenue and earnings below that of many analysts, saying “Q1s are notoriously soft” and the demand for new PCs and other products is still down.
Plus, “I think Wall Street really needs to see the new head coach before you see a lot of confidence,” Thill said, referring to Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer’s lame-duck status.
Ballmer has said he would step down once his successor is found sometime in the next several months.
On the other hand, Morningstar’s Young expects revenue to come in above the consensus estimate — even though he expects Microsoft to take an inventory adjustment on the Surface Pro.
Last quarter, Microsoft took a $900 million writedown, mostly because of inventory adjustments it made after cutting the price of the Surface RT.
Microsoft cut the price of the Surface Pro as well this summer, by $100 each.
“That adjustment should not be as large as it was for the Surface RT,” Young said. “From what we know, inventory for Surface Pro was smaller than for Surface RT. But still, I think it’s going to have an impact on earnings per share.”
Microsoft shares closed Wednesday at $33.76, down 82 cents.
Janet I. Tu: 206-464-2272 or email@example.com. On Twitter @janettu.