Forget Windows. The future of Microsoft (MSFT) is in its enterprise software business and the cloud, said Jeffrey Ubben, founder and CEO of activist hedge fund ValueAct Capital.
In fact, Ubben believes in Microsoft so much that he's taking a stake in the firm that's "within spitting distance" of $2 billion.
The news sent shares of Microsoft up nearly 5%.
"We see Microsoft's consumer strategy challenges and say who cares," said Ubben, speaking Monday at the Active-Passive Investor Summit in New York.
Microsoft has seen its Windows franchise take a big hit along with declining PC sales.
But Ubben sees growth opportunities.
Microsoft provides the plumbing that helps large and small businesses function, he explained. While many have derided Microsoft's inability to innovate, Ubben said that's not such a bad thing. "IT managers don't want constant change."
Microsoft should continue to capitalize on new enterprise businesses, such as instant messaging application Lync and web portal service SharePoint.
Those software applications are what Microsoft does right and should continue to do. "Microsoft is not good at consumer devices, but that's not the relevant lens to view the company," he said.
Microsoft's stock has been "left for dead," he said, mostly because of declining PC sales. "The valuation is stupid now."
Ubben wouldn't say whether he would seek to shake up Microsoft's management or board. He also wouldn't comment about CEO Steve Ballmer's performance. ValueAct typically works with corporate boards in private.
The changes Ubben is pushing for seem to be operational. Windows might have made Microsoft what it is today but it's not the future of the business he calls a "national treasure."
"Microsoft must consider strongly in the not too distant future making Office available outside Windows," he told attendees at the summit.
Running the fiscally challenged state of California might have been an easier task for Meg Whitman than trying to turn around Hewlett-Packard.
That's what she would be doing right now if she hadn't lost the Golden State gubernatorial race to Jerry Brown in 2010. Alas, she has to "settle" for the more lucrative but arguably more thankless job as CEO of troubled HP.
Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) shares are down nearly 25% this year, MOREPaul R. La Monica - Jun 27, 2012 1:00 PM ET
Dell (DELL) is a disaster. Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) is expected to report a massive round of layoffs and more disappointing financial results after the bell. The PC is quickly becoming irrelevant in the eyes of investors as tablet mania rules the land.
So why is Microsoft's (MSFT) stock up nearly 15% year-to-date, making it the fifth best performer in the Dow Jones industrial average? A lot is riding on Microsoft's upcoming MOREPaul R. La Monica - May 23, 2012 8:31 AM ET
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