The split between healthy and sick PC suppliers looks fairly evenly balanced if the latest set of quarterly financial results is anything to go by.
Of 10 major PC hardware and software vendors declaring their quarterly earnings last week, half made a loss and half a profit.
Microsoft surprised the stock markets with higher than projected earnings of 95 cents a share instead of 90 cents. However, despite the impressive 22% growth in profits, this is still the slowest revenue growth in the company's 21-year history. Last year's growth was fuelled by the launch of Windows 95. This year, the new version of Windows NT is selling well with shipments at four times the level of the same period last year.
IBM managed to meet analysts' forecasts with earnings of $1.28 billion for the quarter. Profits remained stagnant compared to the same time last year when taking into account charges relating to the acquisition of Lotus.
Tempering the good news, however, the company explained that a change of direction was necessary.
At present, three quarters of IBM's business is accounted for by 1,000 corporate customers. But as growth in those markets tends to be slower than in the industry at large, IBM must now target small and medium businesses to sustain its upward trend, acknowledged chief financial officer Rick Thoman.
Netscape's meteoric rise continues, with the company more than tripling its revenues since the same quarter last year. Head honcho Jim Barksdale attributed the good news to his company's push into the corporate market, grabbing key accounts such as Chrysler and Shell.
On the downside, Digital lost $66 million during the quarter, prompting its shares to fall by 15% to a two-year low of $29. The disappointing results follow six consecutive profitable quarters. CEO Robert Palmer blamed the reorganisation of the company's sales structure.
Banyan is likely to face increased speculation of a takeover after posting another loss. Cyrix blamed its poor showing on its recently resolved litigation with Intel, while Silicon Graphics suffered after having to recall faulty chips.
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