The Dow Jones Industrials (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) had a busy week on the earnings front, with 30% of its components issuing their reports for the most recent quarter. IBM (NYSE: IBM ) and Intel (NASDAQ: INTC ) represented the extensive Dow tech contingent, and both companies showed just how hard they're working to move beyond traditional dominance of their respective tech niches and evolve alongside the trends that have transformed the industry over the past decade.
Intel largely managed to satisfy investors with its quarterly results, which included a 5% drop in net income on a 1% decline in revenue. Shareholders had expected those downward movements in the figures, given Intel's continued reliance on PC-related chip sales as a major part of its revenue stream. Yet the report also included solid results for Intel's data center business, and the company said it plans to ship 40 million chips for use in tablets by the end of 2014. After years of moving more slowly than its rivals, Intel has recognized the critical importance of the mobile-device space, and its initiatives there are finally starting to bear fruit that could lead to a better strategic vision.
IBM faces many of the same challenges as Intel, and its quarterly report included an eighth-consecutive quarter of falling revenue. But its stock responded much more negatively than Intel's, as shareholders didn't take IBM's 4% sales drop and its 15% decline in adjusted net income well. One particularly disturbing fact was that revenue declined in all of IBM's regions except Europe, with emerging markets and the Asia-Pacific both posting double-digit percentage drops in sales. Still, Big Blue's long-range vision acknowledges the necessity of accepting falling sales, as IBM's hardware business simply doesn't provide the long-term growth prospects that it needs to remain a key part of the company's overall footprint. If efforts to move toward higher-margin services and software pan out by enabling IBM to take advantage of opportunities in data analytics, cloud computing, and social media, then the short-term pain will have been worth the trouble.
Unlike many up-and-coming technology companies outside the Dow Jones Industrials, Intel, IBM, and the index's other tech components have had to reinvent themselves for changing conditions. Their success or failure will go a long way toward defining whether the Dow Jones Industrials keep rising in 2014 and beyond.
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