If Wednesday morning's pre-market trading is any indication, investors are more than a little impressed with Intel's (NASDAQ: INTC ) 2014 Q2 earnings results. And why not? Though its stock has gained a bit of steam of late, Intel shareholders have spent much of the past couple of years listening to the same thing from both analysts and naysayers: too late to mobile, coupled with a dying PC market. Oh, and let's not forget about the constant reminders of ARM Holdings' (NASDAQ: ARMH ) dominant position in smartphones.
Intel has been aware of its need to dive headlong into new markets, even as the industry comes to understand all that talk about the death of PCs was a bit premature. One of the first statements uttered by the then newly named Intel CEO Brian Krzanich in May of last year was the need to move "even faster into ultra-mobility, to lead Intel into the next era." Krzanich's efforts are beginning to pay off, and investors are understandably giddy. But a share price that's up more than 5% to a new 52-week high before the day's trading begins? Easy, now.
What's not to love?
The shift to mobile and the Internet of Things, or IoT, is still a work in progress. Not surprisingly, the majority of Intel's revenues are generated by its PC group -- $8.7 billion of its $13.8 billion total Q2 sales to be precise. That's a 6% improvement -- in PCs, no less --compared to Q2 of last year. The $13.8 billion in quarterly revenues also came in at the high-end of last month's revised revenue expectations of $13.4 billion to $14 billion.
Both revenues and earnings in Intel's Q2 also beat consensus analyst expectations, a measure that many Fools know is often overemphasized; but it's a key metric nonetheless. Analysts had estimated Intel revenues of $13.7 billion, slightly below actual results. But it was Intel's $0.55 earnings per share compared to expectations of $0.52 that raised the proverbial roof, along with guidance for its current quarter, which was considerably better than most gave Intel credit for.
Improved revenues and earnings is never a bad thing, but a couple of areas, in particular, really jump out when you review Intel's Q2. As more businesses and individuals shift their data storage and management needs to cloud and traditional data centers, Intel should continue to show improvement in this important area, as it did in Q2. With $3.5 billion in revenue, Intel's data center group jumped a whopping 19% compared to last year.
Though the IoT is a smaller piece of Intel's overall revenue pie, Krzanich has made it clear that it will play an integral role in Intel's future. With a 24% improvement over 2013, Intel's IoT division's $539 million is slowly becoming a business unit to reckon with. News of a $20-billion increase in its share buyback program was a bit of icing on Intel's Q2 cake.
A dose of reality
When it comes to tablets, Intel and its 40-million unit tablet objective is a sound initiative in one of the fastest-growing mobile markets on the planet. Tablet sales will outpace PCs for the first time If not this year, then almost certainly next, and Intel is establishing itself as a significant player. But in the world of mobile, the smartphone still rules the roost, and it's here where Intel has some work to do.
ARM is not a manufacturer itself, but its low-power-processor technologies have a stranglehold where it counts: smartphones. In a market that's predicted to post sales higher than 1 billion units this year alone, ARM chip technology will power almost every one of them. How does Intel break through ARM's dominant smartphone market-share position that is expected to generate 25 times the sales of Intel?
A couple of new chips. Intel's Baytrail is out in the mobile market now, and its much-anticipated Broadwell chip should "be on the shelves during the holidays." Intel's focus on power efficiency, in addition to its industry-renowned ability to generate processing power, gives investors something to hold onto. But that's a big mountain to climb, and more investor patience is needed.
Final Foolish thoughts
Intel's slow-but-steady transition to mobile-first, the early-stage IoT market, and its strong data-center results, offer investors continued upside. And the latest rash of good news is certainly comforting, if not surprising, for longtime Intel watchers. But before you jump on the bandwagon, as so many already have, don't be surprised to see some short-term easing. That kind of stock price pop, no matter the reason, will nearly always result in daytrader types jumping on profits. So relax... Intel's just getting started.
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