Microsoft CEO Ballmer speaks at the last opening Microsoft keynote at the Consumer Electronics Show opening in Las Vegas
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer speaks at the last opening Microsoft keynote at the Consumer Electronics Show opening in Las Vegas January 9, 2012. REUTERS

(Reuters) -- Microsoft Corp's fiscal second-quarter profit fell very slightly as lagging computer sales to cash-strapped consumers in the United States and Europe hurt its core Windows business.

Businesses and emerging markets are still hungry for more PCs, according to the latest data, but customers in mature markets are ditching their Windows-powered netbooks in favor of Apple Inc's iPad, Inc's Kindle or postponing a PC purchase until the economy improves.

There's really three things that impacted the consumer side, said Peter Klein, Microsoft's chief financial officer, reflecting on the dip in computer sales.

The supply chain from Thailand, there's some macro (economic factors) and certainly some competition from alternative form factors such as tablets and readers.

Tech research firm Gartner reported a 1.4 percent decline in global PC sales for the fourth quarter, aggravated by a shortage of hard disk drives caused by recent floods in Thailand.

Microsoft went further, estimating the PC market fell between 2 percent and 4 percent in the quarter, largely due to the collapse in the market for netbooks, the small laptops which consumers have almost entirely replaced with tablets.

As a result, Microsoft's key Windows unit reported a 6 percent dip in sales to $4.7 billion.

Overall, the world's largest software company reported net profit of $6.624 billion, or 78 cents per share, compared with $6.634 billion, or 77 cents per share, in the year-ago quarter.

The per share figure rose as Microsoft had fewer shares outstanding in the most recent quarter. It beat Wall Street's average forecast of 76 cents.

Sales rose 5 percent to $20.9 billion, in line with analysts' forecasts, helped by its Office, server software and Xbox businesses.

The figure was also boosted by the first inclusion of revenue from Skype, the online phone firm Microsoft bought last year, and a one-time gain of $225 million from favorable foreign currency rates.

Microsoft shares rose 2.2 percent after hours to $28.78. They closed at $28.12 on Nasdaq.

The results are pretty much in line with my expectations. We all expected the PC market to be weak and the Windows business was down because of that. But the server and tools business is growing well, said Sunit Gogia, an equity analyst at Morningstar.

(Additional reporting by Alistair Barr; Editing by Bernard Orr)