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Ahead of the Bell: Microsoft shares rise on 3Q

NEW YORK (AP) -- Microsoft shares rose in premarket trading Friday after the maker of Windows posted better-than-expected fiscal third-quarter profit and revenue. The results may have reassured investors that the current version of Windows remains in demand even as consumers shift toward tablet computers like Apple's iPad and wait for Microsoft's revamped version of the software.

Microsoft Corp. said late Thursday that profit fell 2 percent to $5.1 billion, or 60 cents per share, for the first three months of 2012. Revenue rose 6 percent to $17.4 billion. Analysts polled by FactSet expected earnings of 58 cents per share on revenue of $17.2 billion.

The Redmond, Wash.-based company said sales at its Windows division rose 4 percent to $4.6 billion as more businesses bought licenses for Windows 7. It was only the second time in the past six quarters that sales have grown in the Windows division.

Other consumers are delaying purchases until the next version of Microsoft's operating system hits the market. Windows 8 is expected to go on sale in September or October.

High hopes are riding on Windows 8, because Microsoft designed it to run on devices that can be controlled by touch, as well as keyboards and computer mice. That gives Microsoft a chance to grab a piece of the rapidly growing tablet computer market.

Citi analyst Walter Pritchard backed his "Buy" rating for the company, saying that Windows 8 will help Microsoft grow in the long term, and has many new products meant for businesses coming.

Microsoft shares rose $1.01, or 3.3 percent, to $32.02 before the market open Friday.