Researchers at tech stalwart IBM
Specifically, the company's researchers have found a way to store a "bit" of information in as little as 12 magnetic atoms. For those who don't know, that's a radical improvement over today's storage devices, which require about a million atoms to hold a single bit of information.
Put another way, IBM's discovery means data storage might one day be possible at 1/83,000th the scale of today's disk drives. The company stresses, however, that there's no time frame for bringing this work to market. IBM published its work in the journal Science only last week.
Goodbye, Moore -- hello, Heinrich
In 1965, Intel co-founder Gordon E. Moore proposed the notion that computing power doubles approximately every two years. This theory became known as "Moore's Law" and has accurately predicted the development of the computer ever since. But, according to IBM, that ultimately means shrinking data storage down to the scale of atoms, as low as you can go.
But rather than waiting for Moore's Law to get there in 10 or 20 years, IBM started at the atomic level and built up from there. "We are explorers in the field of starting from atoms and building structures that might be useful for IBM or other players in industry," lead IBM researcher Andreas Heinrich told CNET.
Wake up, Wall Street
Fourth-quarter earnings for IBM are due out any day now, but as of the end of the third quarter, Big Blue was doing very well. For the quarter:
- Net income rose 7%, to $25.6 billion.
- The company's EPS of $3.28 beat Wall Street's EPS expectation of $3.22.
- Gross margin ticked up 1.2% to stand strong at 46.5%.
IBM missed forecast revenue, taking in $26.2 billion instead of $26.3 billion, in the Street's eyes a great crime. We, however, shall let that very small peccadillo pass.
Even more reasons to like Big Blue
Many big tech companies, like Microsoft
And much like IBM in the '80s and '90s, Hewlett-Packard
IBM, however, has it all brilliantly figured out. As such, the company is vibrant through and through, posting strong numbers across the breadth of its business in the third quarter:
- Software revenue rose 13%.
- Services revenue ticked up 8%.
- Service backlog stands at $137 billion, up $2.4 billion from last year.
- Systems and technology revenue rose 4%.
IBM also has an emerging-markets story, a component vital to any company pursuing significant growth:
- The company increased revenue in its growth markets by 19%.
- Revenues in the all-important Brazil, Russia, India, and China markets rose by 17%.
- Growth markets revenue stands at an impressive 23% of IBM's total geographic revenue for the third quarter.
A company always on the move
Having gone through a fallow period and a real identity crisis in the '80s, IBM is a completely reimagined company -- a global IT services and business consulting powerhouse that's growing, profitable, and, as this atomic data storage breakthrough demonstrates, as innovative as ever.
IBM's stock has been on a steady climb since the market bottomed out in 2009, and is currently trading for around $178 per share. With a P/E of 14, it's reasonably priced. The company even pays a small dividend and has raised guidance for the full year to $13.35 per share.
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Fool contributor John Grgurich is not a rock star, but ought to be, though he owns no shares of any of the companies mentioned in this article. The Motley Fool, on the other hand, owns shares of International Business Machines and Microsoft. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Microsoft. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a bull call spread position in Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a scintillating disclosure policy.