5 Winners and Losers of the Week in Business

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NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 25: The Microsoft Windows 8 operating system is unveiled at a press conference on October 25, 2012 in New York City. Windows 8 offers a touch interface in an effort to bridge the gap between tablets and personal computers. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
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Companies can make brilliant moves, but there are also times when things don't work out quite as planned. From a software giant making big concessions to shoulder its way into the booming tablet market to a social gaming leader going through with layoffs at a bad time, here's a rundown of the week's smartest moves and worst misses in the business world.

Microsoft (MSFT) -- Winner

The world's largest software company has been struggling lately as consumers turn to iOS and Android solutions for their basic computing needs. Last year's rollout of Windows 8 for PCs and tablets has failed to revive the desktop and laptop markets, and Microsoft remains a non-factor in tablets and smartphones.

Microsoft intends to do something about that, confirming this week that it's lowering prices for Windows RT and Windows 8 licenses for makers of small tablets. Microsoft is also allowing manufacturers to include Microsoft Office at no additional cost.

Those moves may seem desperate, but they're the right call. Microsoft can't afford to become irrelevant in tablet market as folks flock to either cheaper Android tablets or more desirable iPads. Microsoft has a long way to go, but offering these price breaks on tablets smaller than 10.1 inches -- protecting the pricing of its 10.6-inch Surface devices -- is the right first step.

Zynga (ZNGA) -- Loser

Zynga had a problem holding onto its executives last year. This year, it's cutting loose many of the employees who chose to stick around.

The leading social gaming company behind "FarmVille" and "Words With Friends" is scaling back. Zynga's confirming that it will dismiss 520 of its employees in a move that should shave as much as $80 million in annualized cash operating expenses.

Zynga's bookings are slipping, but it's not as if it needs the money. It's still flush with cash from its late 2011 IPO. It may be time for a new game at Zynga: Morale Building With Co-Workers.

General Motors (GM) -- Winner

It's been four years since a government bailout and bankruptcy reorganization led to the country's largest automaker being booted from the S&P 500. Now GM is pulling back into the once-familiar driveway. The S&P 500 had a vacancy with the Warren Buffett-led buyout of H.J. Heinz, and GM will be filling the void.

GM has bounced back with strong sales and growing profitability. Let's hope it doesn't shift into reverse again.

Quiksilver (ZQK) -- Loser

Retailers have been posting mixed results this earnings season, but Quiksilver's report on Thursday afternoon has proven to be one of the more disappointing performances.

It's all about expectations. Analysts were forecasting a small profit on a 3 percent uptick in sales. That may not have seemed all that ambitious, but the retailer of extreme sports apparel and accessories actually posted a sharp quarterly loss on a 7 percent dip in net revenue.

Quiksilver's negative showing is the handiwork of weakness at its overseas stores, but it's still a miss on both ends of the income statement. Shareholders may appreciate Quiksilver's appeal to extreme sports enthusiasts, but they don't appreciate seeing the company's financials this extreme.

Amazon.com (AMZN) -- Winner

Parents of kids frustrated that "Dora the Explorer," "SpongeBob SquarePants," and other Nickelodeon shows are exiting the streaming catalog of Netflix (NFLX) last month can now turn to Amazon for a solution.

Amazon struck a multiyear deal with Viacom (VIA) that will bring 3,900 episodes from 250 different seasons of shows from Nick, Nick Jr., MTV, and Comedy Central to its Amazon Prime Instant streaming service. The offering is included at no additional cost to customers paying $79 a year for free two-day shipping of Amazon-warehoused goods.

It's slick timing on Amazon's part, which next month will also become the only place you can stream season three of "Downton Abbey."

Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz owns shares of Netflix. The Motley Fool recommends Amazon.com, General Motors, and Netflix. The Motley Fool owns shares of Amazon.com, Microsoft, and Netflix.

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