After the bell yesterday, Dell(Nasdaq: DELL) turned in solid second-quarter earnings, once again proving that a sluggish PC industry isn't enough to stop the company from achieving impressive growth. As the story has long been, its ultra-efficient direct sales model continues to reap market-share gains, allowing it to thrive while the rest of the industry stagnates.

For the quarter, Dell reported earnings per share of $0.19 on revenue of $8.46 billion. This performance was slightly ahead of the already increased guidance it issued on July 12 (covered here). This marked the sixth straight quarter the company surpassed its stated guidance.

The most dramatic statistic in the report is that, with the exception of Dell, PC industry shipments declined 4% for the quarter -- but Dell managed to grow shipments by an astounding 18%. Other impressive highlights include strong growth in revenue from external storage systems -- which grew more than 70% and is now at an annual run rate of more than $1 billion -- and the fact that North American corporate customers rated Dell No. 1 in notebook satisfaction for an unprecedented 17th straight quarter.

Taking a more in-depth look at the quarter, revenue growth was solid at 11% -- although when compared to the 18% shipment growth, it becomes evident that Dell's average sales price is slipping. As detailed in its fabulously data-rich earnings press release, the average revenue per unit for the quarter was $1,770, down from $1,850 a year ago.

Gross margin for the quarter came in at 17.9%, a respectable increase from 17.4% in last year's comparable quarter. But this result is still quite a bit lower than Dell's glory days of 20%-plus gross margins, which prevailed throughout the late 1990s and up through 2000. Those days may be gone forever.

Moving down the income statement, Dell did an excellent job on cost containment, holding operating expenses to only 9.9% of revenue. This record level of expense control allowed the company to achieve an operating profit margin of 8.0%, its highest in seven quarters and up from 7.2% a year ago. All of this translated into earnings-per-share growth of 19% -- a superb performance within an industry that's not growing at all.

Looking ahead, Dell is now calling for Q3 revenue of $8.9 billion -- notably higher than the current analyst consensus of $8.6 billion -- which would be up 19% from the prior year's quarter. The company expects Q3 EPS of $0.20 to $0.21, slightly ahead of the current consensus estimate of $0.20. At a P/E of close to 39, Dell investors are clearly already anticipating this type of strong revenue and earnings growth based on continued gains in market share.