Microsoft's latest quarterly earnings slipped, even as the world's largest software maker showed modest progress adjusting to a shift away from the personal computers that have been its financial foundation for decades.
The results announced Thursday are the first to include Windows 8. The program is a dramatic overhaul of the Microsoft Corp. operating system that powers most PCs. Windows 8 came out Oct. 26 with slightly more than two months left in Microsoft's fiscal second quarter.
Microsoft is counting on Windows 8 to help the company extend its franchise into tablet computers while still reaping revenue from a new breed of PCs. The redesigned software displays applications in a mosaic of interactive tiles instead of a staid menu. It can be controlled by touching on a display screen, as well as the traditional method of using a keyboard and a mouse.
Although sales of Windows 8 haven't been as impressive as investors hoped, revenue in Microsoft's Windows division climbed 24 percent from the previous year. That includes sales that had to be deferred from earlier quarters because the purchases were made before Windows 8's release.
When Windows 8 finally hit the market, Microsoft also unveiled its own tablet computer, Surface, as a showcase for the operating system. Microsoft didn't disclose Thursday how many Surface devices were sold in the October-December period.
“I don't think they want to provide that because it won't be impressive,'' technology analyst Patrick Moorhead said.
Analysts have estimated Microsoft sold 750,000 to 1 million of the Surface units during the quarter, far below the nearly 23 million iPads that Apple said it shipped during the same period.
Microsoft booked its Surface sales in the Window division, accounting for some of the gains from the previous year. The Redmond, Washington, company is trying to get the Surface into more hands by releasing the device in 14 more countries and coming out with a more sophisticated version that can handle all Microsoft programs. The new model, called Surface Pro, will debut Feb. 9. The one already out runs a streamlined version of Windows 8 called RT.
BGC Financial analyst Colin Gillis said he still has