Microsoft’s new heyday: PC ‘renaissance’ and cloud boom drive record revenue and employment

Microsoft surpassed $50 billion in quarterly revenue for the first time, with profits of $18.8 billion, up 22%, in its financial results posted Tuesday afternoon.

Generating profits at that rate, Microsoft will essentially fund its $68.7 billion purchase of Activision Blizzard in less than a year — several months before it’s expected to complete the deal.

Here’s what else stood out in one of the most extraordinary quarters in Microsoft’s 47-year history.

Structural shift’ in the PC market: Remember the “post-PC era”? We’ve now entered the post-post-PC era, at least in Microsoft’s view. The uptick in demand in the early days of the pandemic is proving to be much more than a blip, as evidenced by the 20% increase in Windows revenue to $6.6 billion in the quarter.

“We’ve seen a structural shift in PC demand,” said Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella in prepared remarks to analysts on the company’s earnings conference call. He said the world is going through a “PC renaissance” with people spending more time on their computers and buying more computers per household.

Windows gained market share in the quarter, Nadella added.

The company is asserting that the latest version of the operating system is contributing to the trend. Panos Panay, Microsoft’s chief product officer, told Ina Fried of Axios that people are spending 40% more time on Windows 11 PCs vs. computers running Windows 10.

Stock rises on strong outlook: Microsoft shares are up 5% in trading Wednesday morning vs. their Tuesday closing price, after initially declining after-hours following the report.

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A big reason for the change appears to be the outlook provided for next quarter’s results on the company’s earnings conference call. For example, Microsoft expects between $18.75 and $19 billion in revenue in its Intelligent Cloud business, according to Amy Hood, chief financial officer.

Even at the lower end of the range, that divisional revenue would exceed Wall Street’s prior expectations, as noted by Eric Savitz of Barron’s in his coverage.

LinkedIn keeps growing: Microsoft’s $26.2 billion purchase of LinkedIn will be the largest in its history until the Activision-Blizzard deal closes, and the business social network continued to pay off for Microsoft in the latest quarter.

LinkedIn revenue rose 37% to $3.5 billion in the December quarter, a new record.

In its 10Q filing for the quarter, Microsoft credited the growth in the LinkedIn business to “advertising demand in our Marketing Solutions business and an improving job market in our Talent Solutions business.”

Employment growth: Microsoft grew its headcount by 16% year-over-year in the quarter, Hood told analysts on the call. By GeekWire’s calculations, that puts the company’s total direct employment above 195,000 for the first time.

Growth areas include cloud engineering, sales, customer deployment gaming and LinkedIn, the Microsoft CFO said.

Based on recent trends, much of the company’s growth has been taking place internationally, and the growth that’s happening in the U.S. has been taking place primarily outside of the Seattle region.

Microsoft’s employment numbers do not include people who work on projects for the company on a contract basis or through outside vendors, a large additional workforce that has historically numbered in the tens of thousands.

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See our initial earnings report for more on Microsoft business units including gaming, productivity, and hardware.

RELATED: Microsoft Teams surpasses 270M monthly active users, as growth slows from early days of pandemic

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