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Microsoft Reality Distortion Field Set to Crack

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Since taking over as Microsoft (MSFT) CEO on Feb. 4 Satya Nadella has booked a 12% rise in the stock price, worth about $37 billion to shareholders, and won huge praise for a first quarter where sales and earnings were down from a year earlier.

If Steve Ballmer had turned in those numbers the corporate knives would be out. But Nadella is trim and can rock a black T-shirt and pants like no one since Steve Jobs.

So analysts forgive. They want something new from Microsoft. Satya Nadella is new. But a new face, and a trimmer look, will only go so far. What analysts really want are better numbers. And right now it's hard to see where those will come from.

A lot of the recent praise for Microsoft came for its cloud efforts. But putting its own business on its cloud, and those of its customers, is a trick that only works once.

The closing of the Nokia acquisition drew more admiring press, with its former CEO, now Microsoft head of devices Stephen Elop, given another chance to shine. 

What did Elop have to show? Colors. Lots of colors. Bright colors, blinding colors. Colorful plastic cases and a commercial based on the film Pleasantville in which the Microsoft user is the only character in color.

But didn't Apple (AAPL) try plastic cases last year for its iPhone 5c, and didn't that fail?

The cases are the start of a new campaign in which Microsoft will pitch itself to young consumers as a daring choice, but the only new technology Elop teased was a bigger front-side camera, for bigger selfies.

Can bigger selfies save Microsoft?

And can Microsoft really sell a pitch of individuality, based on a song by the Kinks, a band formed more than 50 years ago, while the company is, in fact, becoming just like everybody else?

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