This week featured its share of downbeat business news, from a software giant's untimely price hike to Apple showing its sour side. But it wasn't all bad: One retail giant looks to be making a highly brainy media gamble. Here's a rundown of the smartest moves and biggest losers in the business world.
Microsoft (MSFT) -- Loser
The world's largest software company posted uninspiring financial results on Thursday, but that's not why Microsoft makes the loser list this week.
Microsoft is reminding the dwindling ranks of PC users that the cost to upgrade to Windows 8 Pro is going to go up from $40 to a whopping $200 come Feb. 1.
Yes, the $40 promotional price for Windows 7 users was always set to end next week. However, given that October's arrival of Microsoft's latest operating system did little to spark PC sales -- in fact, they fell -- one would think that Microsoft would rethink that dramatic pricing increase.
Consumers and businesses don't seem to have a good reason to give Microsoft's touch-centric Windows 8 a shot. We live in operating system-agnostic times. Does Microsoft really think it wise to charge as much for a software upgrade as you'd pay for an entry-level Android Chromebook?
Amazon.com (AMZN) -- Winner
The writers of 2009's sleeper hit "Zombieland" were hoping to put out a sequel shortly after the film grossed $100 million in worldwide box office receipts. When that didn't pan out they turned their attention into transforming the franchise into a prime-time sitcom.
Media reports tied the project to CBS (CBS) two years ago, but that apparently also failed to materialize.
Well, it seems as if it may be Amazon.com to the rescue. Reports this week claim that the leading online retailer has stepped up to develop the "Zombieland" series. The goal here, one would think, is to give Amazon's Prime Instant Video platform a magnetic original series to attract viewers. It can also offer to sell episodes piecemeal through its digital storefront.
In a week that found niche leader Netflix (NFLX) soaring after validating the streaming model with better than expected results, Amazon's timing to call up the walking dead couldn't be better.
Apple (AAPL) -- Loser
I guess you can call Apple a value trap this week.
Shares of the world's most valuable technology company had fallen nearly 30 percent in the four months heading into this week's earnings report. With that kind of pessimism, one would think that even ho-hum results would trigger a rally.
Well, it was a showing that landed south of ho-hum. Apple's margins got squeezed, and the company that for a decade seemed to be an all-weather opportunity posted essentially flat earnings growth.
Apple is in a bind. Cheaper Android smartphones and tablets are taking over globally, and the company that innovated its way to the top needs to hurry to raise the bar again before it's forgotten on the way down.
Procter & Gamble (PG) -- Winner
Procter & Gamble makes a lot of products that you might have around your home. Crest toothpaste, Tide laundry detergent, and Bounty paper towels are just some of its dozens of household brands.
Another thing that has become synonymous with Procter & Gamble these days is shareholder activism. Given the conglomerate's sluggish performance lately, hedge fund activist William Ackman has been calling for Procter & Gamble to increase shareholder value by cashing out on some of its assets.
Well, for a day at least, Procter & Gamble can silence the skeptics. The consumer titan posted better than expected quarterly results on Friday morning, boosting its outlook for all of fiscal 2013 along the way.
J.C. Penney (JCP) -- Loser
Things aren't getting any easier for the out-of-favor department store operator.
J.C. Penney was called out by the New York Post this week, alleging that the retailer was asking suppliers to create fake suggested retail prices for products that it sells at lower prices.
The struggling chain is denying the claims, but its reputation is still taking a hit. J.C. Penney has ridiculed the artificially inflated original prices that are marked down at rival department stores. Sticking to its "fair and square" pricing, J.C. Penney has struggled to woo shoppers to check out its everyday low prices. Comps have fallen sharply every single quarter since the new platform was introduced early last year.
Don't laugh the next time someone asks for a price check at J.C. Penney. If anything, just be surprised that you're at J.C. Penney to begin with.
Motley Fool contributor Rick Aristotle Munarriz owns shares of Netflix. The Motley Fool recommends Amazon.com, Apple, Netflix, and Procter & Gamble. The Motley Fool owns shares of Amazon.com, Apple, Microsoft, and Netflix.
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