How Microsoft Lost Its Mojo in 2012

Microsoft is coming off one rollercoaster of a year. The stock started out strong, easily beating the Dow Jones Industrial Average for a few months as the Windows 8 refresh looked like a powerful catalyst. But the joy didn't last: Mr. Softy soon fell back in line with its Dow peers and is currently underperforming the index year to date:

MSFT Total Return Price Chart

MSFT Total Return Price data by YCharts.

Tailwinds stopped filling Microsoft's sails when Windows 8 started looking like a mobile system bolted onto traditional desktops. The benefits of upgrading to the new software aren't clear, but users have found plenty of reason to stay with the familiar Windows 7 experience. Is this another Windows Vista disaster, or will consumers and corporations just get used to the new interface and move on? It's too early to tell, but I wouldn't be surprised to see a service pack that removes the mobile-style user interface in favor of a more traditional desktop.

And then there's the mobile market. Microsoft hoped to make a huge splash in smartphones with best friend Nokia by its side. The tablet segment would have to be covered by Microsoft's very own Surface product. When that slate was announced, system partners from Hewlett-Packard and Dell to Acer and Lenovo delayed or canceled their planned Windows tablets en masse. Neither gambit has worked out so far.

The company is trying to shift more Surface tablets by expanding sales to Best Buy , Staples , and other retail chains. Again, it's far too early to tell how it's going. This holiday shopping season will either make or break Microsoft's hardware ambitions.

Redmond is stuck in limbo until the Windows 8 fog clears up

It's been a frustrating path for Microsoft investors, who have watched the company fail to capitalize on the incredible growth in mobile over the past decade. In this brand-new premium report on Microsoft, our analyst explains that while the mobile opportunity is huge, the challenges are many. He's also providing regular updates as key events occur, so be sure to claim a copy of this report now by clicking here.

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Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any company mentioned. Check out Anders' bio and holdings or follow him on Twitter and Google+.The Motley Fool owns shares of Staples, Best Buy, and Microsoft. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a synthetic covered call position in Microsoft. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

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