For once, Microsoft is victim of its own FUD
Early earnings release surprised Wall Street and Microsoft
Just because reigning FUD champion Microsoft gets a lot of credit for using leaked information as a stick with which to beat its opponents doesn't leaks don't whack it in the head once in a while.
Rather than waiting until the markets closed at 4 p.m. in New York to announce its quarterly results, someone at Microsoft released the numbers early by accidentally posting the announcement to a public area of its investor-relations site.
Not many people picked up on it, but scans from a search-engine company called Selerity, which indexes investor-relations info from public companies for investors, sure did.
It grabbed a copy of the results, which company analysts checked to make sure it wasn't marked as a draft -- which could contain incomplete or inaccurate results, but more often are missing only a canned executive quote -- and put it out on Selerity's news feed StockTwits.
Selerity released Microsoft's results at 2:50, more than an hour before the markets closed, which could have given agile investors a chance to make some money before others caught on.
(Earnings were down a little due to slow PC sales, though sales of Kinect and Office 2010 pulled them back a bit. Shares went up 2 percent following the early release, then dropped after the bell.)
Microsoft, which had planned to release results after the market closed at 4, had to rush to put out the release through normal channels so the information wouldn't be limited only to Selerity subscribers -- which the SEC would probably frown upon as a gift to select investors.
A statement posted over the signature of Microsoft's general manager of investor relations blamed “one or more media sources” who discovered a “preproduction draft of our earnings release” and "published our results to the web after market close."
The implication is that the fault is Selerity's and, in fact, that Selerity published them first.
Putting content in a publicly accessible part of a web site does constitute publishing it.
So if there's any fault, it belongs to Microsoft, just as it would be your fault if you left the front door open and your rowdy dog escaped to go poop in the neighbor's yard.
On the Web, accidental poop is almost as common as the real stuff, but much harder to clean up.
Like, say, when the City of Boulder accidentally posted a list of 60 sites where medical marijuana is grown. Or the federal government accidentally published a 266-page report on the location of stockpiles of fuel for nuclear weapons and other materials. Or venture capitalists Kleiner Perkins published detailed plans of companies planning iPhone applications. Or Mozilla published the usernames and passwords of 44,000 users of its add-ons section.
Usually I'd add something about the value of data loss protection to keep things like that from going out, but it's not much use on the timing of something that is supposed to be published in an hour anyway.
Sometimes, no matter what the technology people can do to prevent it, end users are going to let the dog out of the house and someone's going to have to go see the neighbor with a scooper and a little plastic bag.