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Intel Calls Tales of PC Contraction Bunk
Intel’s crystal ball says that the global market is still good for low double-digit growth this year

Intel emerged from the first quarter whole, intact and justifiably giddy - despite the Sandy Bridge chipset recall, the supposed drop in PC shipments, the mobile challenge and the supply chain crisis in Japan - bragging Tuesday of record sales and earnings in a historically soft quarter.

During the conference call CEO Paul Otellini called Gartner and IDC's claims last week of a nasty, unexpected contraction in the PC market baloney.

He said their researchers didn't have visibility into the emerging markets, the white boxes moving there and the demand for laptops, and even desktops.

Intel, he said, has focused on getting its glasses propped clearly on its nose the last few years and so far its predictions have only been off a point and that was back in '09.

Intel's crystal ball says that the global market is still good for low double-digit growth this year and there's nothing preventing the same kind of performance next year. It's also not a low-end mix. It's an average mix. Customers in China, Eastern Europe and South America can now afford a decent PC.

Of course, Otellini is talking about annualized numbers; Gartner and IDC found PC shipments off 1.1%-3.2%, respectively, in Q1 with both blaming the iPad and the PC's comparative lack of sex appeal. IDC expected the market to grow 1.5% and Gartner 3%.

That said, Intel's Q1 GAAP revenues were up 25% year-over-year to $12.8 billion, or 12% sequentially, above its own expectations. Earnings were up 29% year-over-year to $3.2 billion, or 56 cents a share, flat sequentially. Gross margin was 62.3%, down 2.5%, mostly because of the Cougar Point chipset, and operating profits came in at $4.2 billion, up 3% sequentially.

The company described the quarter as an "all-time record...fueled by double-digit annual revenue growth in every major product segment and across all geographies." It's predicting greater than 20% revenue growth this year. It figures it'll see revenues of around $12.8 billion this quarter plus or minus $500 million and a happy gross margin of 61% give or take. For the year it thinks it can squeeze out a 63% margin.

Wall Street only figured it was good for $11.59 billion in Q1 and $11.87 billion this quarter.

It said PC revenues were up 17% year-over-year or 12% sequentially to $8.6 billion in Q1, server sales up 32% to $2.5 billion, down 2% from Q4. Atom and its chipset cleared $370 million, up 4% year-over-year, down 5% from Q4. ASPs were up sequentially thanks to Sandy Bridge. The company spent $4 billion buying back stock.

It complained of consumer weakness in the US and Western Europe but saw strength in the enterprise and of course emerging markets. Apparently the server business outdid itself given it was the first quarter. Otellini figures that between the cloud and demand from China, Intel should do $10 billion this year in servers, storage and networking.

Intel closed on both its big McAfee and Infineon acquisitions in the period and McAfee contributed $160 million to revenues during the month it was part of the company. Together they kicked in $500 million, a figure likely to repeat this quarter. Software and services overall did $240 million, up 220% from Q4 or 314% year-over-year. The acquisitions upped Intel's payroll by 11,000 employees to 93,500.

Otellini said Intel is working with handset makers on 32nm Medfield Atom-based tablets and phones, the bulk of which will be running Android when they wend their way to market.

Intel's stock jumped 5%-6% after-hours.

About Maureen O'Gara
Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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