Investors eyeing Windows in Microsoft’s fiscal 1Q

REDMOND, Wash. (AP) ? Investors will find out whether Microsoft Corp.’s Windows franchise is regaining steam when the world’s largest software maker reports its fiscal first-quarter earnings. The numbers are due out after the stock market closes Thursday.

Microsoft has several key operations, but the division that includes its Windows operating system has been attracting attention because of the threat posed by Apple Inc.’s iPad and other computer tablets.

The big worry hanging over Microsoft is whether the growing popularity of the iPad and other tablets foreshadows the demise of the personal computer era that established Microsoft as a technology powerhouse. Microsoft’s recent performance has done little to alleviate the concerns, with revenue in its Windows division falling from the previous year in each of the past three quarters.

Microsoft believes it will gain market share in the tablet market with a radical overhaul of Windows. The new version, Windows 8, is designed to work on touch-screen devices that boot up quickly. The redesign has generated positive buzz since Microsoft began distributing a version for developers last month, but the finished product isn’t expected to hit stores until next year.

By then, the iPad could be an even bigger hit. Apple said it sold more than 11 million iPads in the three months ending in September. But Apple’s overall quarterly results turned out to be a disappointment on Wall Street because the company didn’t sell as many iPhone as analysts anticipated.

For its latest quarter, Microsoft is expected to earn 68 cents per share on revenue of $17.2 billion, according based on a FactSet survey of analysts.