Steady as she goes

Steady as she goes

While major fluctuations in stock prices dominated global financial pages in the past week, some of the world's largest IT companies have posted impressive results. Taken as a group, the numbers suggest the global IT market is still pretty solid despite all the column inches devoted to discussion of pending economic recession. One of the standouts was Microsoft.

Although the Windows Vista operating system has been pilloried by the press since it hit the market almost a year ago, Microsoft's client business recorded sales of $US4.34 billion in the final quarter of 2007, up from $US2.59 billion during the same period a year earlier.

While part of this jump can be attributed to a quiet period at the end of 2006 as it transitioned to the new version of Windows, Microsoft claims it has now sold 100 million licenses for Vista. To put this in perspective, it claims client software sales are up 20 per cent since Vista launched.

Technology's golden child, Apple, celebrated a third consecutive quarterly sales record for desktops and notebooks to register a profit of $US1.58 billion on revenues of $US9.6 billion for the three months to December 31.

The industry's best yardstick, IBM, also enjoyed a solid quarter with revenues of $US28.9 billion representing a 10 per cent increase on the last three months of 2006. Its services division, which will increasingly try to engage the channel this year, was star performer. Big Blue's software division also posted impressive numbers with Web-Sphere (23 per cent), Rational (22 per cent) and Tivoli (19 per cent) the biggest revenue jumpers.

Strong international sales also saw Symantec record a 15 per cent rise in annual revenues to a total of $US1.53 billion. The security and storage company doesn't break out its Australian figures but you have to think it performed below the Asian region as a whole (19 per cent revenue growth) given that local managing director, David Sykes, walked the plank at the end of last year. With Asia-Pacific channel director, John Donovan, also making a sharp exit it seems fair to assume most of that Asian growth was in countries like China and India.

One vendor with little to celebrate was the world's second favourite computer chipmaker, AMD. While its quarterly loss of $US1.772 billion is almost entirely accounted for by charges related to its acquisition of ATI, the $US97 million loss excluding those charges is still substantially more than the $US25 million it lost in the same period a year earlier. Perhaps most worrying of all, AMD still managed to ship a record number of chips in the quarter including 400,000 of its quad-core chips. What does it need to do to make a buck?

Arch-enemy, Intel, posted steady growth of over 10 per cent in the same quarter to record revenues of $US10.7 billion. Net income of $US 2.27 billion was a 51 per cent jump from Q4 2006.

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