Intel, Microsoft turn into woebegones

A slide at the White Bull conference in Sitges last week had everyone buzzing. The presenter suggested that Intel and Microsoft were has beens as far as tech stocks went – the new kids on the block being, of course, Google, ARM, Facebook and the like.

It’s certainly true that investors don’t really seem to care about Intel (tick: INTC) any more. The heady days when Intel stock soared and soared again are long gone. Its 52 week high is $24.37 and its 52 week low is $17.60.  And at close of play last night it stood at $19.45.  On the 29th of August 2000, its share price stood at $74.06. Given that Intel recently turned in record profits for the quarter, this seems, on the face of it,  somewhat odd.

Microsoft (tick: MSFT) stood at $24.68 when NASDAQ closed last night, with its 52 week low being $22.73 and its high $31.58.  Even though Microsoft, like Intel, has had some problems during the last decade, it too has consistently delivered results that are, at the very least, respectable.

So where’s Google? Ah yes, it closed at $526.55 – with a 52 week high of $629.51 and a 52 week low of $433.63.

Robert Noyce of IntelHave Intel and Microsoft become boring, then? There’s no doubt that Intel has attempted to seriously re-invent its image over the last two years. Everyone in the world that’s got a TV is aware of Intel and its little cute jingle – although whether they have the slightest idea of what the chip giant actually does is very doubtful. Have they a clue about the sophisticated process technology that Intel uses to make its processors? We doubt it, we really doubt it. Even if you do have a clue about the huge capital investments it’s made, can you make sense of Core i3, i5 and i9? Pictured here is Robert Noyce, co-inventor of the integrated circuit. Intel has, actually, made a huge difference to the shape of our lives in the 21st century.  We’re not sure the same is true of Microsoft.

Microsoft, too, has re-engineered its branding with the launch of Windows 7 – Vista, of course, being a complete dud. Its operating system and its Office suite continue to deliver racks of doubloons for the Redmond behemoth.

But both Microsoft and Intel have Achilles’ Heels in the shape of the mobile market.  Both companies have struggled to get into the smartphone market and with very little success compared to the bright and shiny Google Android platforms and, of course, the success of Apple with its iPhone and its iPad. Does Intel have any smartphone design wins for its cunning cut down little processors?

What’s for sure is that ARM is secretly rattling Intel and is continuing to make design wins for tablets and for smartphones – it must be very galling for the chip giant to see the plucky British firm pick up win after win.

It’s hard to see how either Microsoft and Intel can make themselves sexy again and see their share prices soar as in times of yore.  Perhaps another acquisition or three could turn round their brands, although it’s hard for us to see any real connection between McAfee and Intel apart from the fact their buildings in Santa Clara are pretty close.