Stock Look Back: Microsoft (NASDAQ MSFT) After Steve Balmer

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Longtime Microsoft (NASDAQ MSFT) Chief Steve Ballmer, in August 2013, issued the now-infamous statement that he would retire “within the year.” News of Ballmer’s departure couldn’t come soon enough for disgruntled shareholders, as evidenced by Microsoft’s share price spike of about 7% immediately following the announcement.

But that was then, and this is now. With Ballmer gone and new CEO Satya Nadella hitting his stride, Microsoft investors are enjoying a banner year. Much of Microsoft’s 31% jump in share price so far in 2014 is due to Nadella’s strict adherence to his mobile-first, cloud-first strategy, a change to new, high-growth markets that Ballmer was either unwilling, or unable to implement.

Microsoft’s cloud results continue to shine with an annual run rate of an estimated $4.5 billion in revenue, as well as triple-digit growth per quarter. It has been surprising to some, but Nadella’s mobile strategy – even after Microsoft’s $7 billion-plus acquisition of Nokia’s mobile unit – isn’t all about devices; that was Ballmer’s vision when he inked the deal.

Nadella’s plans are about putting Microsoft solutions into the hands of as many mobile users as possible, in most any way possible, and he’s taking steps to do just that.

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Though the rumor mill had been in full swing for a while, some people were still surprised when Nadella announced the Office 365 for Apple’s (NASDAQ AAPL) iOS platform. Granted, Microsoft had been prepping Office for use on iOS before Nadella took the helm, but it’s telling that the company waited for Ballmer to exit the building before burying the hatchet with its longtime nemesis, for a couple of reasons.

One, Ballmer’s list of negative quotes regarding Apple are the stuff of legend, and making Office available for iDevices would have come across as an admission of failure. But Office 365 for iOS is perfectly aligned with Nadella’s mobile vision, and that has been reinforced by recent Microsoft announcements.

In addition to offering its free Office 365 apps to iPhone and iPad users, Microsoft recently took the wraps off a new version of Office for the world’s most popular operating system, Android.

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Microsoft has also traveled down the partnership path to expand use of its solutions. In just the last month or so, Microsoft teamed up with salesforce.com, and photo, video, and file-sharing provider Dropbox — for both its iOS and Android users — to integrate Office 365 and other Microsoft services into its new partners offerings.

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