Microsoft is almost ready to announce earnings for its fiscal fourth quarter, which ended June 30. The outcome might not be the most straightforward, in no small part because of the pandemic. The $2 trillion software and hardware maker is more diversified than its large technology peers . While some economic factors could be good for business, others might prevent earnings from being as impressive as they have been in recent quarters, as people became more dependent on PCs for work, school and play while staying home. Here's what investors will be paying attention to in Microsoft's earnings statement and guidance: 1. Sizing up Azure. In the past few years, arguably the most important thing in Microsoft's earnings report is how quickly the company's Azure cloud is growing, given the market-leading Amazon Web Services cloud also continues to grow fast. This quarter is no different. Analysts polled by StreetAccount are expecting 42% Azure revenue growth in the fiscal fourth quarter. In the previous quarter, Microsoft reported 50% growth . The company does not disclose Azure revenue in dollars, although four analysts estimate that it would be around $8.5 billion, which would work out to 19% of Microsoft's total revenue. 2. Windows worries. CFO Amy Hood told analysts in April that she expected Windows revenue to grow "mid-single-digits" in the fiscal fourth quarter. But earlier this month, technology industry research company Gartner said PC unit shipment growth slowed to 4.6% , partly because of component shortages. Also, Intel executives on Thursday pointed to a challenging supply environment . Windows delivers higher margins than other parts of Microsoft, and if the results come in worse than Hood had suggested, they could trim Microsoft's overall profit. In the last week of the quarter, Microsoft introduced Windows 11, which brings a new look and some new features . Microsoft has not officially released Windows 11 yet, so it will defer revenue from licenses sold to device makers before the release date. Revenue for licenses sold in the fiscal first quarter will appear in the results for the second quarter. On a conference call with analysts Tuesday, the company will say how much it expects to defer. "Our early read is that any lift from the launch of Windows 11 in FY22 should be very modest, as to-date there isn't enough to kick-off an enterprise upgrade cycle," UBS analysts, who have a buy rating on Microsoft stock, wrote in a note distributed to clients. 3. LinkedIn recovery. Before Microsoft bought LinkedIn for $27 billion in 2016, the business social network derived the majority of its revenue from the U.S., which, continued to add nonfarm payrolls in the fiscal fourth quarter following the onset of the coronavirus in 2020. That pattern might benefit the LinkedIn business, which relies on sales of tools that companies use to hire employees. LinkedIn also generates revenue through ads, as do more consumer-oriented Snap and Twitter , both of which reported better-than-expected results last week. LinkedIn revenue growth accelerated in the past three quarters. In April, Hood called for "revenue growth in the mid-30% range," which would continue the trend for a fourth quarter partly because LinkedIn turned in the slowest growth since 2016 in the year-ago quarter after the arrival of Covid. 4. The new fiscal year. Investors will also be listening for Microsoft's predictions for the 2022 fiscal year, which began on July 1. Some employees have returned to the company's campus in Redmond, Washington. As the coronavirus recedes, Microsoft might want to increase its operating expenses, including having employees travel more to meet with customers. WATCH: Microsoft gets a Street high price target by Citi. Two traders discuss
Satya Nadella, chief executive officer of Microsoft Corp., listens during a fireside chat at the GeekWire Summit in Seattle, Washington, U.S., on Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017.
Daniel Berman | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Microsoft is almost ready to announce earnings for its fiscal fourth quarter, which ended June 30. The outcome might not be the most straightforward, in no small part because of the pandemic.
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