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Microsoft Knows Where It Is Going, but Who Will Follow?

Stocks in this article: MSFT HPQ AAPL GOOG AMZN

At the recent OpenStack Summit in Atlanta, I was surprised to see that nearly everyone had laptops, not iPads. If you write for a living, whether that is code or words or business plans, you are still willing to wait for Microsoft to come around, as was true in the late 1980s, when MS-DOS stayed viable for years in the face of the Macintosh, before Microsoft got Windows right.

Office remains a money-making machine, Xbox is contributing to profits, and the Azure cloud is growing as customers bring more of their Office work to it.

Microsoft thus has time to fix Windows 8, and that product's death is somewhat exaggerated. The latest American Consumer Satisfaction Index gives Microsoft a score of 75, six points higher than in 2008, during the launch of Windows Vista, and just a few points away from its record high. 

The fact is Microsoft has a niche, office workers, and Nadella is aiming to keep as much of that loyalty as he can.

If that means competing with its former OEMs, companies such as Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) that were abandoning it anyway, then Microsoft will do that.

If that means having Office work on Apple (AAPL) and Google (GOOG) Android phones, Microsoft will do that. 

If that means matching prices and working alongside Amazon's (AMZN) EC2 cloud, Microsoft will do that.

This is a sea change for the company, which tried to hold all of its market within its grasp under former CEO Steve Ballmer, and seemed to have a "take it or leave it" attitude where you were either "in" Microsoft's world or "out" of it.

It's not a guarantee of success, but it's not a death rattle either.

At the time of publication the author owned shares of GOOG, AMZN, and AAPL.

This article represents the opinion of a contributor and not necessarily that of TheStreet or its editorial staff.

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