Microsoft last night reported that its profits soared to a record high in the first  three months of the year due to sales of its new Vista operating system and Office software.

Profit in its third quarter quarter to the end of March was $4.43 billion, or 50 cents per share, compared with $2.98 billion or 29 cents per share a year earlier.

The software giant credited the success of its new Vista operating system and related software for what it declared a record-breaking quarter.

Revenues came to $14.4 billion in the quarter, up from $10.9 billion during  the same three months last year.

US sales of computers carrying Microsoft's new operating system Vista leapt 67% in the week after it was launched on January 30, defying the expectations of analysts who gave Vista lacklustre reviews.

Microsoft spent five years and $6 billion creating Vista as the successor to its Windows XP operating system. The release was repeatedly delayed, prompting computer pricing deals and discounts to appeal to customers in the notoriously slow  sales period following the Christmas and New Year shopping season.

Around 95% of the 900 million computers in the world run on Windows operating systems.