Microsoft effectively defined the nature of modern computing in the 1990s, though it later lost its crown to Google and Apple. Bill Gates and his colleagues didn't invent computers, the graphical interface or internet browsing. But they came to dominate most users' experience of all three in the 1990s and 2000s. As a result, for several years, Microsoft was the world's most valuable corporation, with a market capitalisation bigger than businesses five times its size by revenues. However, it was also the industry's most hated entity, juggling a string a lawsuits from smaller rivals it had elbowed into oblivion. More recently, peace has broken out at Microsoft. This partly because the company worked hard to rebuild bridges, using part of its huge cash stockpile to settle legal rows with rivals and forge strategic alliances. But just as important was the fact that its role as the big bad giant of the industry was to some extent transferred to Google. Microsoft has attempted to keep pace with Facebook and other rivals with a string of high-priced - but often ill-fated - acquisitions including internet advertising giant aQuantive, online phone service Skype, and Nokia mobile phones. Skype continues but Microsoft shuttered its mobile handset business in 2017. Search engine Bing and tablet Surface have also struggled at times to justify their existence, while Xbox too has proved mercurial. Yet the oldest products are still Microsoft's bread and butter. Despite their age, Windows and Office continue to dominate most PC users' daily activities. The company's biggest acquisition to-date was business-oriented social network LinkedIn in 2016 for a mammoth $27bn. After a slow start, it is gradually beginning to justify its purchase. The new joker in the pack is Microsoft's cloud computing platform Azure. It has quietly come to dominate its market in both revenues and profitability, prompting an unexpected spike in Microsoft's share price. In 2019, the company overtook all its younger tech rivals to yet again seize the crown of the world's most valuable corporation, worth in excess of $1 trillion. The rebirth of Microsoft has been overseen by Satya Nadella, who succeeded Steve Ballmer as CEO in 2014. For the year to June 2020, Microsoft reported record revenues of $143.0bn and best-ever profits of $44.3bn.
Capsule checked 21st August 2019
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Historical profile information for Microsoft
Adbrands Daily Update 22nd Sep 2020: Microsoft was no doubt pleased to be able to walk away from the increasingly chaotic TikTok negotiations, and instead signed off on its biggest-ever purchase of a games developer. It has agreed to acquire ZeniMax Media, owner of Bethesda Softworks and seven other development studios, for $7.5bn. Games titles under the ZeniMax umbrella include the Doom, Quake, Fallout and Elder Scrolls franchises.
Adbrands Daily Update 14th Sep 2020: Oracle was the unlikely victor in the auction to take control of TikTok in the US. President Trump had said he would ban the Chinese social media sensation unless it was acquired by a US company, on grounds that it constitutes a threat to national security. Microsoft, with backing from Walmart, had been considered the most likely purchaser of TikTok. However its Chinese owners preferred a late bid from Oracle, which appears to have less far-reaching implications with regard to ownership. Terms have not yet been disclosed, but Oracle is being described as TikTok's partner rather than a purchaser. This arrangement must still be approved by the White House and the Committee on Foreign Investment in the US. However, Oracle's founder and CEO Larry Ellison is an high profile fundraiser for Donald Trump, which makes approval more or less certain. That's the way things generally work in the Trump White House. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella is not known to be a Trump supporter.
Adbrands Daily Update 3rd Aug 2020: Microsoft is to proceed with fast track negotiations to acquire the operations of Chinese social video platform TikTok in North America and Australasia, despite a last minute interruption from President Trump. Talks have been under way for several weeks, but were thrown into disarray on Friday after Trump said he was considering imposing a ban on the service. Several of his more conservative advisors have expressed fears that TikTok's owner Bytedance might share data on US users with the Chinese government or spread Chinese propaganda in America, despite the assurances of Bytedance CEO Zhang Yiming that this will never happen. Trump may also have been influenced by the recent decision by the government of India to impose a local ban on the app. At first Microsoft withdrew from negotiations as soon as Trump's comments were reported. But following a conversation between CEO Satya Nadella and the president over the weekend, the US tech giant has reiterated its interest. Trump has given Microsoft 45 days to finalise a deal. The US company has pledged in return to ensure all data on US users is kept in the US and not channelled back to China. In a more worrying development, reported subsequently, Trump demanded from Nadella a "very substantial" cut of any deal for the US Treasury "because we're making it possible for this to happen" by threatening a ban. Such an arrangement would be unprecedented and unethical, and probably illegal, with worrying implications for future deals.
Adbrands Daily Update 23rd Jul 2020: Microsoft suffered only minimal impact from the pandemic for the quarter and year ended June 2020. Full year revenues hit a new high of $143.0bn while net income reached a best-ever $44.3bn. All products and services except search advertising experienced positive growth in the latest quarter. Best of all was Xbox content and services, which enjoyed a massive 65% jump in revenues from homebound gamers. However, analysts took note of a gradual slowdown in growth at Microsoft's Azure cloud storage division. Revenues rose by 47% in the final quarter, compared to 59% in 3Q and 64% in 2Q. Other negative factors include a big hit from the closure of all Microsoft's bricks-and-mortar retail showrooms - an ill-fated attempt to replicate Apple Store - and a slowdown in recruitment commissions and ad sales at LinkedIn.
Adbrands Daily Update 27th Nov 2019: "Lucy & The Reindeer". To their considerable credit, Microsoft and their dedicated McCann agency m:united have side-stepped traditional holiday sentimentality for this year's Christmas campaign. That might not seem to be the case judging by the ad's first 40 seconds, but the pay-off offers a refreshing twist on the usual guff. The ad also offers a clever and unobtrusive demo of Microsoft's current hot sales priorities: the Surface laptop/tablet and Microsoft Translator software. It's a late arrival to the Christmas party, but gets here just in time for the Black Friday rush.
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