Can Microsoft Bounce Back From Dismal Quarter?

Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) announced on Thursday it would release its much-awaited Windows 8 operating system on October 26, but the news was largely overshadowed by the company’s first-ever quarterly loss since going public in 1986. Microsoft reported a $492 million, or 6 cents a share, loss. That compares with earnings of $5.9 billion, or 69 cents per share, a year ago. Analysts were expecting a $5.3 billion profit.

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The company had already warned that it was taking a $6.2 billion charge because its 2007 purchase of online ad service aQuantive hadn’t yielded expected returns. Microsoft paid $6.3 billion for aQuantive, but has seen Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), which bought DoubleClick for $3.1 billion in the same year, corner a major share of the online ad market. Profit excluding the writedown was 67 cents a share, compared with the 62-cent average estimate of analysts.

Investors are hoping that the debut of the touchscreen- and tablet-friendly Windows 8 will spark something of a turnaround. The company is also in the final stages of developing a new version of its Office software, which was released for a public test earlier this month. “Of the products in the pipeline, Windows 8 and Office 15 are the most powerful,” Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, told NBCNews.com.

To sustain sales of Windows 7 through October, the company has said buyers of selected versions of Windows 7 through the end of January 2013 will be able to upgrade to a version of Windows 8 Pro at a discount.

Sales rose 4 percent to $18.1 billion, compared with the $18.2 billion average projection, and were given a push by enterprise buyers. “Sixty percent of Windows revenue comes from the corporate market, and corporate is marching along on their Windows 7 upgrade,” Sanford C. Bernstein analyst Mark Moerdler told Bloomberg.

Microsoft was up 2.43 percent, or 74 cents, at $31.41 after hours.

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