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Microsoft’s skyrocketing stock closing in on $100/share thanks to cloud emphasis

In October 2016, Microsoft stock hit a then all-time high of $59.66, eclipsing a milestone set 17 years prior. Fifteen months later, Microsoft stock sits at $94, up 58 percent from that record price, as the tech giant continues to surge under CEO Satya Nadella.

Microsoft’s stock has outperformed the Nasdaq Composite Index, which rose about 43 percent since October 2016. The skyrocketing stock has pushed Microsoft’s market value to $726 billion, according to Google Finance, up from $461 billion in October 2016.

Microsoft is in range of $100 per share, and it could hit that milestone later today when it reports its latest quarterly financials. Analysts expect the tech giant to post earnings of 86 cents per share on $28.39 billion in revenue.

Nadella was named CEO in February 2014 and has rebuilt the company’s status as a tech powerhouse, primarily on the back of a cloud-first strategy. Last quarter, Microsoft achieved $20 billion in annualized revenue from its commercial cloud products and services, a self-imposed goal set by Nadella in 2015. And Microsoft did it nine months ahead of schedule.

Nadella set the cloud revenue goal as a way of changing perceptions of Microsoft both inside and outside the company. Instead of the decades-long obsession with Windows sales as the key indicator of Microsoft’s performance, focusing — and delivering — on a big cloud services revenue goal showed that the company was ready to move those days into a new era.

“It took us from a defensive frame amid falling PC and phone shares to an offensive mindset,” Nadella wrote in his new book, “Hit Refresh,” which tells the story of Microsoft’s turnaround. “We went from deflection to ownership of our future.”

Amazon still trails Amazon Web Services in the cloud market, but as noted by Nasdaq, KeyBanc Capital Markets analyst Brent Bracelin earlier this month wrote that Microsoft is the fastest growing major cloud provider and has now captured 20 percent of the public cloud market.

Microsoft’s next area of major investment is artificial intelligence. In 2016, Microsoft formed a new AI group, making it the fourth engineering division at the company, alongside the Office, Windows and Cloud & Enterprise. In the first year, that group grew by 60 percent — from 5,000 people originally to nearly 8,000 people — through hiring and acquisitions, and by bringing aboard additional teams from other parts of the company.

As it did with Microsoft’s resurgence, the cloud played a big role in the growth of AI. The rapid rise of cloud computing, big-data analysis and sophisticated software tools, have benefitted AI tremendously, resulting in programs that are starting to outperform the average human in such categories as speech recognition and reading comprehension.
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