Microsoft turned in a profit that outstripped forecasts Thursday, though the earnings declined slightly on stale global computer sales.
The world's largest software maker, whose Windows operating system still runs on 90 percent of the world's computers, is heavily dependent on PC sales, which grew only 3 percent in the quarter, and is starting to feel competition from Apple's iPad.
The earnings figures, which were expected after markets closed Thursday, unexpectedly came out before the closing bell.
Though higher on a per-share basis, the results were lower than last year in real dollars. The software maker reported earnings of $6.63 billion, or 77 cents a share for its fiscal second quarter, versus $6.66 billion, or 74 cents a share a year ago.
Sales rose to $19.95 billion in the most recent quarter, up from $19.022 billion.
Microsoft was seen reporting a lower profit of 68 cents a share, and sales of $19.147 billion, according to a consensus estimate from Thomson Reuters.
"Outstanding numbers when you take a first look at it, but when you delve into them, Windows missed expectations by $300 million," said analyst Brendan Barnicle of Pacific Crest Securities. "The big surprise is huge strength in the Office business, $600 million above expectations. That is really being driven by the Office 10 release."
Microsoft said sales of its core Office application rose 24 percent, indicating that U.S. businesses are starting to spend more on technology after the recession, but consumers are proving less resilient.
Initial jobless claims surged to 454,000 in the latest week, rising to the highest level since late October, suggesting that any recovery in consumer spending will come in fits and starts.
Meanwhile, sales of smartphones and tablets are expected to grow much more quickly than PCs over the next few years, posing a threat to Microsoft's key market.
Microsoft's shares edged 9 cents higher to $28.87 on the Nasdaq Thursday, and were slightly lower in extended trading.Get after-hours quotes for Microsoft here.
In a statement on the early release of its results, Microsoft said an unnamed media outlet discovered a pre-production draft of the report and published them. The company said it will take steps to ensure the mistake is not repeated.