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Microsoft Shrugs Off The Pressure, Breaks Records

UPDATED: Microsoft may appear to be under fire from a lot of quadrants these days, but that doesn't appear to have harmed the company's ability to print money. Despite a fairly strong showing, however, financial analysts were not impressed.

The company announced Thursday another record for its fiscal third quarter in terms of gross revenues, and Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) executives say they are optimistic that they can keep that pace through the end of fiscal 2008 and into 2009.

For its third fiscal quarter, ending March 31, the company brought in $14.45 billion in revenues and reported operating income of $4.41 billion. That compares with $14.4 billion in revenues for fiscal 2007's third quarter, and operating income of $6.59 billion.

While that demonstrates barely any growth in revenues and a drop in earnings from the year ago quarter, company officials blamed a charge for the European Commission's (EC) recent $1.42 billion fine that it paid to end long-running antitrust litigation.

The fine had a $0.15 per share impact on earnings per share, but the results of settling a U.S. tax audit reduced income taxes by $0.15. Overall, Microsoft yielded $0.47 per share for the quarter.

Company executives credited Microsoft's diversified business strategy as being the main driver of the company's continued success.

"Our broad span across geographies, product categories and customer segments is a tremendous asset and supports our outlook for double-digit revenue, operating income and earnings per share growth for this fiscal year and also for fiscal year 2009," CFO Chris Liddell said in a statement.

In the main, however, Microsoft's revenues derived from the company's core products, including Windows clients, Office 2007, and its server and tools businesses. Sales of the Xbox 360 were a bright spot as well, Liddell said. Overall, though, company executives see no signs that the economy is affecting sales.

Indeed, the company's guidance to investors and analysts is that Microsoft will break last fiscal year's revenues and earnings records by a country mile. For fiscal 2007, which ended June 30, 2007, the company finally topped the $50 billion mark for revenues, coming in at $51.12 billion. Operating income in fiscal 2007 was $14.07 billion.

In contrast, on a conference call with analysts, Liddell gave the company's first guidance for fiscal 2009 -- and it's a doozy. He said he sees $66.9 billion to $68 billion in revenues and between $26.7 billion to $27.4 billion in operating income.

By comparison, Microsoft is way ahead of where it was this time last year. For the nine months ending March 31, 2008, the company grossed $44.58 billion. In the same period a year earlier, Microsoft brought in revenues of $37.75 billion, according to the company's 10Q.

Liddell's guidance for the rest of the current fiscal year has the company grossing $60.1 to $60.3 billion, a more than 17 percent jump from last fiscal year. He also projects fiscal 2008 operating income to come in at $22.6 to $23 billion, and earnings per share between $1.87 and $1.90.

Overall, however, the financial community seemed to be lukewarm on Microsoft's results.

"If anything, it sounded like the analysts were more skeptical than Microsoft," which is usually the other way around, Dwight Davis, vice president at researcher Ovum Summit, told InternetNews.com.

Matt Rosoff, financial and legal affairs analyst at Directions on Microsoft, had a similar take.

"It was sort of a lackluster quarter, not a blow out like the last couple of quarters," Rosoff told InternetNews.com.

The markets bore that out.

Microsoft's stock closed down $1.58 in after hours trading at $30.22, a loss of 4.97 percent.

Vista sales continue to appear robust. According to a slide presentation, the company has sold a total of 140 million units of Windows Vista since it first shipped on January 30, 2007.

Meanwhile, the company also had the largest server launch in its history this quarter. Revenue from the company's server and tools division grew by 18 percent during the quarter, Liddell said. Those products – Windows Server 2008, Visual Studio 2008, and SQL Server 2008 – are expected to be large contributors to Microsoft's bottom line.

(Update adds analyst's comments.)