How Chips, PCs, Services Companies Are Faring

Published January 25, 2012 3:54AM (EST)

A look at how selected companies providing computers, components, services and related software are faring:

Jan. 11: Research groups Gartner and IDC say personal computer shipments dipped during the final three months of last year amid a shortage of key parts or compelling innovations. Based on preliminary figures, Gartner is pegging the worldwide shipment decline at 1.4 percent from a year earlier, and IDC calculated the decrease at 0.2 percent. The slight downturn had been expected for several reasons, chiefly the growing popularity of mobile devices. That was compounded in the fourth quarter by hard-drive shortages because of flooding in Thailand and the fact that many products were either uninspiring or overpriced, according to analysts at Gartner and IDC.

Jan. 19: IBM Corp. reports fourth-quarter earnings and an outlook for the year that were stronger than expected. The latest results were helped by higher revenue and profit margins in the technology icon's lucrative software and services segments. The company offered a welcome sign of stability amid the global economic turmoil that's prompting worries about a slowdown in technology spending by businesses and governments, who are IBM's customers.

Intel Corp., the world's largest chip-maker, says profit rose 6 percent in the latest quarter, even as hard-drive shortages held back PC makers' chip orders. Intel's results, like Apple's in recent quarters, have benefited from the economic surge in China and other developing countries, where many people are buying PCs for the first time.

Microsoft Corp. reports flat earnings in the latest quarters, boosting sales of servers, Xbox games and its Office productivity software while trimming losses at its Bing search engine. The quarter wasn't as bad as some industry analysts feared, given that flooding in Thailand constricted the supply of hard disk drives used in personal computers. Microsoft also witnessed a wave of consumers buying Apple Inc.'s popular iPad, which cut into sales of miniature laptop PCs known as netbooks.

Monday: Texas Instruments Inc. reports results that topped analyst estimates. The company credits improving demand for most of the company's products, leading TI to believe that the company is moving beyond a downturn that undercut its financial performance for most of last year. The company, however, offered a tepid forecast for the first quarter of this year.

Hard disk drive maker Western Digital Corp. says its second-quarter net income fell 36 percent as it took a $199 million charge related to flooding in Thailand.

Tuesday: Apple Inc., which had uncharacteristically tepid sales in the July-to-September quarter, reports results that vastly exceed analyst estimates and set new records. Apple Inc. says it sold 37 million iPhones in the quarter, double the figure of the previous quarter and more than twice as many as it sold in the holiday quarter of 2010. The iPhone 4S launched during the latest quarter. The company shipped 15.4 million iPads in the quarter, again more than doubling sales from a year earlier. Apple sold 5.2 million Macs during the quarter, up 26 percent from a year earlier.

EMC Corp., the world's largest maker of data-storage computers, provides further evidence that the shift to cloud computing is creating a favorable business climate. With cloud computing, services and software are run on computers located elsewhere instead of on a single computer at a desk. EMC's results for the latest quarter surged past analyst estimates while the forecast for this year called for double-digit growth in earnings and revenue.

Advanced Micro Devices Inc. reports a fourth-quarter loss, after the chip-maker wrote down the value of an investment in its former GlobalFoundries unit by $209 million and recorded $98 million in restructuring costs. AMD lost 24 cents per share, compared with earnings of 50 cents per share a year earlier. Excluding one-time items, AMD says it earned 19 cents per share in the latest quarter.

Coming up:

Wednesday: SanDisk Corp., Xerox Corp.

Feb. 1: Qualcomm Inc.

Feb. 16: Applied Materials Inc.

Feb. 21: Dell Inc.

Feb. 22: Hewlett-Packard Co.

Unknown: Seagate Technology PLC, Lenovo Group Ltd., Nvidia Corp., Marvell Technology Group Ltd., Oracle Corp.

By Salon Staff

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