How Chips, PCs, Services Companies Are Faring

Published February 6, 2012 5:45PM (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.

Jan. 23: 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.

Jan. 24: 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, more than twice as many as it sold a year earlier. For the first time, iPhones accounted for more than half of Apple's sales. Sales of iPads were also strong, with more than 15 million shipped, again more than double from a year earlier. Sales of Mac computers were more modest, but still growing. 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.

Altera Corp., a maker of computer chips, says net income fell 37 percent from a year earlier. Revenue fell 18 percent. The company says "industry conditions" led to declines in the quarter, but growth for the full year was up 6 percent.

Jan. 25: Xerox Corp.'s business of providing services to businesses, to help them manage documents and processes, was the star of the quarter, with revenue up 6 percent. That was balanced by a 5 percent drop in sales of machines and supplies.

SanDisk Corp., which makes memory chips for electronics such as smartphones and tablets, says fourth-quarter net income fell 42 percent on higher costs and one-time charges. Adjusted results beat expectations, but gross margin — the percentage of each dollar in revenue a company actually keeps — was hurt by higher costs.

LSI Corp., which makes semiconductors for data storage and networking, gives a first-quarter forecast above Wall Street expectations and reassures investors that the troubles from hard drive shortages are under control.

Jan. 31: Seagate Technology PLC, a maker of hard disk drives, says net income in the latest quarter nearly quadrupled to $563 million. Revenue grew 3 percent to $2.59 billion. Both its revenue and adjusted profit soundly beat Wall Street expectations. Seagate earlier said that it had shipped more hard drives than expected, despite troubles at its manufacturing plants from flooding in Thailand.

Feb. 1: Qualcomm Inc., a maker of chips for mobile devices, says global demand for smartphones has boosted sales. The company also says new 3G and 4G wireless networks should increase its sales opportunities during 2012. It set its earnings and revenue forecasts above analyst expectations for the current quarter.

Coming up:

Feb. 15: Nvidia Corp.

Feb. 16: Applied Materials Inc.

Feb. 21: Dell Inc.

Feb. 22: Hewlett-Packard Co.

Feb. 23: Marvell Technology Group Ltd.

Unknown: Lenovo Group Ltd., Oracle Corp.,

By Salon Staff

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