For tech investors, the third full week of October was particularly busy, with several major firms, including Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), IBM (NYSE:IBM), and Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) posting quarterly earnings.
Apple beats estimates on strong iPhone sales
Apple shares rose more than 4% over the course of the week, closing at a new, all-time high on Thursday. The company's latest iPhones appear to be as popular as analysts had anticipated: CEO Tim Cook characterized demand as "staggering" and noted that Apple was working as hard it could to fulfill orders.
Last quarter, Apple sold 39.3 million iPhones, an increase of 16% from the prior year. Mac sales were also strong, up 21%. Unfortunately, the iPad continues to struggle -- unit sales contracted 13%, and Macs actually generated more revenue for Apple than the iPad. It doesn't seem that will change any time in the near future -- tech pundits praised the new iPads, which began arriving in stores this week, but noted that they weren't significantly different from prior models.
Apple Pay, Apple's mobile payments solution, went live on Monday. Analysts are optimistic that the service will see widespread adoption and drive further iPhone sales, but given that it only works on Apple's latest models, it could be a gradual process. Regardless, whether its Apple Pay, the larger screen, or something else entirely, record demand for the iPhone 6 has made it a great week to be an Apple shareholder.
IBM plunges after a disappointing quarter
In contrast, IBM shares had a terrible week, falling more than 12% -- a notable move for any stock, but particularly significant for a company as large and as established as IBM -- it is, after all, a favorite of Warren Buffett.
IBM's earnings came in far short of analysts' expectations: $3.68 per share sharply missed the $4.32 consensus estimate. Revenue also contracted, down 4% on a year-over-year basis, and management pulled its earnings guidance for 2015, remarking that it could no longer guarantee the $20 per share target it had planned to meet by the end of next year.
IBM continues to shift its business away from hardware and toward cloud services and software -- it paid Globalfoundries $1.5 billion to take its money-losing chip business off its hands. Yet not everyone is convinced: Billionaire Mark Cuban took a shot at IBM, remarking that it was "no longer a tech company" and lacked vision.
Microsoft boosted by hardware, cloud services
Microsoft shares gained more than 4% in after-hours trading on Thursday after the Windows-maker turned in a solid quarter. Earnings contracted on an annual basis, but revenue increased, with Microsoft's hardware ventures showing surprising strength.
Microsoft's Surface-related revenue, led by the Surface Pro 3, rose to $908 million, more than doubling on a sequential basis. Xbox sales were also strong, with Microsoft selling 2.4 million units during the quarter.
Perhaps more important, given its recent initiatives, is Microsoft's cloud business -- that too appears strong. Microsoft now has 7 million Office 365 Home subscribers, a 25% increase sequentially. Enterprises are also buying into Microsoft's cloud services -- commercial cloud revenue rose 128%.
The Windows business remains resilient. Demand for Windows licenses for consumer PCs and laptops declined only modestly, with revenue falling just 1%. On the commercial side, Windows licensing revenue rose 10%.
In other tech news, Google launched a new version of Gmail, introducing "Inbox" -- a new app that adds a predictive element to its popular email service. For the time being, Inbox is available only on an invite-only basis, but could eventually replace traditional gmail. The advanced features could keep current customers loyal, and may even draw in some new users, boosting Google's advertising business.
Facebook introduced "Rooms", a semianonymous app that allows its users to create forumlike websites where they can discuss a range of topics under an assumed name. The recent wave of anonymous social networking apps may have caught Facebook's attention -- Room serves as a sort of halfway point, allowing Facebook to keep its users engaged.