Microsoft reports first ever revenue slide

Microsoft missed analyst expectations for its third fiscal quarter, revenue down 6 per cent compared to the same quarter last year .

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Microsoft missed analyst expectations for its third fiscal quarter, blaming the most difficult economic conditions the company has faced in its history.

For the period ending March 31, Microsoft reported revenue of $13.65 billion, down 6 per cent compared to the same quarter last year and below the $14.09 billion that analysts had predicted.

Earnings per share were $0.33, down 30 per cent over last year and below the analyst forecast of $0.39 per share. Excluding a charge related to severance payments for layoffs and another for impairments to investments, the earnings would have met analyst expectations, Microsoft said.

Microsoft's operating income for the quarter was down just 3 per cent from the same period last year, at $4.44 billion.

The business market continues to drag down Microsoft's sales, said Chris Liddell, the company's chief financial officer. “Globally, business hardware purchases continued to slow and severely impacted traditional license sales in Client, Microsoft Business Division and Server & Tools,” he said, referring to three groups at the company affected by software license sales.

Revenue from the Client group, which includes Windows, dropped to $3.4 billion from $4.0 billion last year. While that was due to weak PC sales, the decline was offset somewhat by increased netbook sales. However, Microsoft earns less from Windows licenses on netbooks, which lowered the average selling price of the software.

Microsoft did not announce any layoffs Thursday, contrary to at least one analyst’s prediction. In January it laid off 1,400 people and said a total of 5,000 would be let go over the following 18 months.

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