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Microsoft Doesn't Need Tom Brady After All

By his high standards -- maybe even by the average quarterback's mediocre standards -- Tom Brady had a bad game Sunday. But the Patriots are still going to the Super Bowl.

OK, so there was a missed field goal that half the Redmond Media Group staff could have made. There was a controversial non-touchdown non-catch. There were some things that broke New England's way. But let's put all that aside right now and consider this, briefly: The Patriots won with defense and the running game, essentially. Hall of Fame quarterback Brady was more or less just another cog in the machine.

For you folks who don't like sports (or the Pats), here comes the segue: Microsoft pulled a Patriots with its last earnings report, even before the Pats won with a mediocre Brady on Sunday. In last week's earnings roundup, the big news was that Windows revenue had slipped in Redmond. The superstar, the grizzled veteran, the money machine, was showing its weakness. Time to panic, right? Surely the decline of the PC and the rise of the iPad were conspiring to sink Microsoft. This was another nail in Microsoft's coffin. Wasn't it?

Actually, it wasn't. Microsoft beat Wall Street's expectations, and, initially anyway, its long-stagnant stock price experienced a nice little pick-me-up. Windows loses and Microsoft wins. How is it even possible? Who thought Microsoft could succeed financially without Windows carrying the load?

Well...we did, actually. Yes, here at RCPU, we've been saying for a long time that Microsoft should focus more on the enterprise and less on consumers. And sure enough, the business division (basically Office, which obviously appeals to businesses and consumers), and the server and tools division (operating systems for old iron -- think Windows Server) played the roles of Vince Wilfork and BenJarvus Green Ellis and stepped in to fill the void.

As usual, we couldn't be right about anything without a huge caveat. The overwhelmingly consumer-driven entertainment and devices division (Xbox, Kinect, Zune...just kidding about that last one) was also a huge moneymaker in Microsoft's last quarter. We've been kind of unenthusiastic about the whole Xbox thing, given how long it took to turn a profit -- but here it is raking in the green. So, there you go.

Now, let's make a couple of things clear (at the risk of sounding like Richard Nixon): The Pats will need Tom Brady to play much better than he did on Sunday in order to have any hope of winning the Super Bowl, and Windows 8 needs to be a winner for Microsoft on multiple levels. Both have a strong possibility of happening, although that Giants' front seven is terrifying. But we digress.

The greater point here is that the New England Patriots and Microsoft are both strong enough and resilient enough to overcome disappointing performances from their stars. So, for those who so giddily like to predict the decline of the Pats or the death of Microsoft (as neither organization tends to be all that popular from what we can tell), tap those metaphorical brakes a bit. In fact, slam them on. The Pats can win with a mediocre Ton Brady, and Microsoft is more than just Windows. If we've learned nothing else since last Thursday afternoon (and we probably haven't), we know that.

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Posted by Lee Pender on January 23, 2012


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