In a post last month, we examined how Google ($GOOG) changed the estimated useful life of its computer servers. The company extended the estimated life of those servers from three years to four, and that change resulted in an increase to net income of $561 million for the quarter and $1.2 billion for the first six months of 2021.
Here is what Google said in its 10-Q report filed on July 28:
In January 2021, we completed an assessment of the useful lives of our servers and network equipment and adjusted the estimated useful life of our servers from three years to four years and the estimated useful life of certain network equipment from three years to five years. This change in accounting estimate was effective beginning in fiscal year 2021. Based on the carrying value of servers and certain network equipment as of December 31, 2020, and those acquired during the six months ended June 30, 2021, the effect of this change in estimate was a reduction in depreciation expense of $721 million and $1.6 billion and an increase in net income of $561 million and $1.2 billion, or $0.84 and $1.81 per basic and $0.83 and $1.78 per diluted share, for the three and six months ended June 30, 2021, respectively.
What’s interesting is that Google hasn’t been the only tech firm changing the estimated life of its equipment lately. Back on Oct. 27 of 2020, Microsoft ($MSFT) included in this in its 10-Q report:
In July 2020, we completed an assessment of the useful lives of our server and network equipment and determined we should increase the estimated useful life of server equipment from three years to four years and increase the estimated useful life of network equipment from two years to four years. This change in accounting estimate was effective beginning fiscal year 2021. Based on the carrying amount of server and network equipment included in property and equipment, net as of June 30, 2020, the effect of this change in estimate for the three months ended September 30, 2020, was an increase in operating income of $927 million and net income of $763 million, or $0.10 per both basic and diluted share.
Just like Google, Microsoft’s change in estimates significantly increased the useful lives of its servers — and also delivered a significant increase in Microsoft’s net income ($763 million, to be exact) for the quarter.
Given the similarity between these two disclosures, analysts following this sector might consider adjusting their earnings models and forecasts. Other tech firms such as IBM, Oracle, Amazon (don’t forget its booming Amazon Web Services division) or Apple may be next. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, after all.
Here is an Excel spreadsheet illustrating the effect on net income you may want to use. Stay tuned.
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