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Wall Street Beat: As markets rise, guarded optimism for IT

Marc Ferranti | April 1, 2013
Though IT trailed other sectors as market indices rose to milestone highs this quarter, some bright spots in earnings and market research reports this week indicate continuing confidence that things will go better for tech this year than in 2012.

Red Hat, which provides corporate open-source software, reported strong earnings Wednesday. Total revenue for the quarter ending Feb. 28 was $348 million, an increase of 17 percent year over year. Net income was $43 million compared to $36 million a year earlier.

"We now provide solutions to over 90 percent of Fortune 500 companies," noted CEO Jim Whitehurst in a statement.

Meanwhile on the hardware front, smartphone and tablet sales sparked good news for related components. The global market for NAND flash memory pulled off a growth spurt during the last three months of 2012, causing sales to reach a record high, according to an IHS iSuppli report this week. NAND industry revenue in the fourth quarter of 2012 amounted to $5.6 billion, up 17 percent from $4.8 billion in the third quarter. Samsung Electronics, with more than a third of total revenue, led the sector.

Worldwide shipments of what IDC calls "smart connected devices" -- desktop PCs, notebook PCs, tablets and smartphones -- increased 29.1 percent year over year in 2012, exceeding 1 billion units shipped, with a value of $576.9 billion. The market expansion was largely driven by 78.4 percent year-over-year growth in tablet shipments, which surpassed 128 million in 2012, IDC said in a report this week. IDC expects that tablet shipments will surpass desktop PCs in 2013 and portable PCs in 2014.

BlackBerry, recently rebranded from its old name of Research In Motion, was buoyed by the smartphone wave, shipping about 1 million BlackBerry Z10 smartphones during its fiscal fourth quarter. The company reported earnings Thursday. Though revenue for the quarter, ending March 2, was down 36 percent year over year to US$2.7 billion, net income from continuing operations for the quarter was $94 million, compared to a net loss of $118 million during 2012.

The two new devices debuting during BlackBerry's quarter -- the touchscreen BlackBerry Z10 and a handset with a physical keyboard, the BlackBerry Q10 -- were designed essentially from scratch around a new platform based on QNX, a real-time operating system the company acquired in 2010. The company is counting on them to revive its aging product line.

"Given the expectations that most had, they did quite well," said analyst Jack Gold in email. "BB is certainly not dead yet and I think it's a mistake to count them out yet, even though they still face some significant hurdles to overcome."


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