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October 4, 2006

MSFT Wednesday morning roundup

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano at 9:44 AM

Pack-leading Wall Street analyst Rick Sherlund of Goldman Sachs is out with a research note expressing his opinion that Microsoft's Windows Vista operating system is more likely to launch on time -- meaning November for businesses and January for consumers. Sherlund, whose employer does investment banking business with Microsoft, wrote that he's expecting Release Candidate 2 (an even more complete version) of Vista to go out later this week or next.

"The Vista development organization has made rapid progress delivering improvements to Vista's performance, reliability, and compatibility," Sherlund wrote. He had long built into his expectations a later launch of Vista, which is already more than two years behind schedule.

Whenever the operating system does come out, it will be protected with an anti-piracy program, which Microsoft detailed today. The company announced a Software Protection Platform that will apply to Vista and "Longhorn" Server, and later to other products. Certain features in Vista, including the Aero Glass display, memory boost, some security measures and other extras, will not work in non-genuine copies of the software. Copies of the software not activated with a legitimate product within 30 days of being installed will operate in "reduced functionality" mode. Mary Jo Foley has a deeper look at the implications of the new program.

Microsoft filed its annual proxy statement early this morning. It scheduled its annual shareholders meeting for Nov. 14 at Meydenbauer Center in Bellevue.

Of note in the proxy: Chairman Bill Gates and CEO Steve Ballmer both drew an annual salary of $616,667 up slightly over last year, but both saw their annual bonuses decrease by $50,000 to $350,000 each. They're still doing OK, though. Gates and Ballmer hold company stock worth $26.2 billion and $11.2 billion, respectively, at yesterday's closing price.

But it's interesting that their bonuses were reduced, while 900 other top executives saw handsome rewards under the company's shared performance stock awards program. The two programs are not directly related and Gates and Ballmer do not participate in the shared stock award program.

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