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Welcome to Microsoft Pri0: That's Microspeak for top priority, and that's the news and observations you'll find here from Seattle Times reporter Sharon Chan.

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April 25, 2008 9:14 AM

Microsoft shares sink after middling quarter; analysts react

Posted by Benjamin J. Romano

After shedding 5 percent in after-hours trading Thursday, Microsoft shares dipped further this morning. The company's third-quarter earnings clearly did not delight investors.

As of mid-day trading on the Nasdaq, Microsoft was down more than $2 a share, or about 6.4 percent, to $29.75. The company was leading the broader tech sector down this morning. Both the Dow and the Nasdaq are in the red, too.

See today's story for details on Microsoft's quarter, which was characterized by weakness in its core Client business segment, which produces the flagship Windows operating system.

Here are a couple of additional analyst reactions that came in overnight:

Friedman Billings Ramsey analyst David Hilal described the quarter in a note as "good, but not flawless."

He doesn't see the weakness in the client segment lasting. "The weak client segment was due to some quarter-specific issues, which we believe will improve this quarter, as well as slower domestic PC shipments due to the economic slowdown," wrote Hilal, who has a $40 price target on the stock and an "outperform" rating.

Goldman Sachs analyst Sarah Friar noted that most of the "beat" -- the amount Microsoft's earnings per share exceeded Wall Street estimates -- from "came from higher other income and taxes."

She also detected a different tone with regard to the broader economy in the company's third-quarter report:

"Microsoft's commentary on the macro environment was more guarded than last quarter, and results were more in-line or weaker than expected in areas where we would expect to see weaker enterprise spending have an impact, namely [Microsoft Business Division] and client."

The uncertainty about the Yahoo acquisition continues to hang over the stock, wrote Friar, who currently does not have a rating on the stock. Other key risks she identified are: "competition from [software as a service] and free open source software; [and] weaker Vista and Office sales."

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