Is Gateway (NYSE:GTW) back in black? In October, the computer maker reported its first operating profit in more than three years, and it overcame a small operating loss over the holidays by affirming that its days of red ink appear to be in the past.

In 2005, the company is looking to earn between $0.15 and $0.17 a share on revenues of at least $4 million. That's significant because many other items in the company's report aren't as impressive as they first seem. Sure, the company moved 1.2 million computers during the year's final quarter and is now behind only Dell (NASDAQ:DELL) and Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ) in moving systems, but PC unit sales more than doubled only after the company acquired eMachines last year. Likewise, the company did produce a profit during the fourth quarter, but only because of a $100 million gain after Time Warner (NYSE:TWX) redeemed its preferred-stock stake in the company.

That's why the company's greener outlook for 2005 is important. Sector growth should continue; market researcher Gartner is forecasting a 10% uptick in demand this year. Some companies will fall below that mark, since others, like Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), are poised to score some thicker slices of the market-share pie, but the industry is getting a passing grade, and that should help all of the players.

Gateway suffered through a volatile 2004 that saw it closing its namesake stores and trimming its payroll, but the future looks brighter. It's a good turnaround for a company that just a couple of years ago was actually trading for less than the cash on its balance sheet. My, what a beautiful bovine this one-time cash cow has become again.

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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz does have a pair of Gateways in his house, though he favors working on his HP computer and Dell monitor. He does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story. The Fool has a disclosure policy. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.