Tech companies point to upturn in economy

Here are 10 signs coming out of the tech industry that point to tempered optimism for the economic future

With unemployment high and an outlook that's improving but still uncertain, the best responses coming out of the big tech companies about the immediate future is tempered optimism. IBM's recent assessment that the economy has " really stabilized " may have best summarized expectations.

But some of the more interesting clues about what's ahead for tech many be in the results of companies with a more specialized market focus.

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Here are 10 data points about the most recent third quarter.

1. If there's one industry to watch next year, it is clean technology. The federal government stimulus package set aside billions for a sector that's already heating up. For instance, SunPower's third quarter revenue was $466 million compared with $298 million in the second quarter. That compares to $378 million in the third quarter of 2008. Its share price may have taken a hit on a lower outlook, but the company's career page lists 60 job openings.

2. Venture capital investments are increasing. In the third quarter there was $4.8 billion in 637 deals, a 17 percent increase in terms of dollars from the prior quarter, driven by clean tech investments. There was a decline of 3 percent in the overall number of deals, according to report from PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association. The slight decline in deals, from 657 in the prior quarter, may mean a shift to longer term investments, according to the industry association.

3. Hynix Semiconductor, a memory chip maker in Seoul, on Monday reported a net profit of $207 million for the third quarter after seven consecutive quarters of losses. It was also a 26 percent increase over the previous quarter.

4. Hard drive maker Western Digital said last week that it had finished it most recent quarter with 44.1 million hard drive shipments compared to 39.4 million shipments in the year ago quarter. Revenues were $2.2 billion, a new record for the Lake Forest, Calif.-based company.

5. Last week, Riverbed Technology's third quarter revenue was $102 million, an increase of 12 percent from $91 million from the second quarter and an increase of 18 percent from $86.5 million from the same period a year ago. The San Francisco-based company makes WAN optimization technology, which helps improve application response times, something SaaS (software as a service) applications, in particular, need.

6. Infinera revenues for the third quarter were $83.4 million, compared to $68.9 million for the second quarter this year, a 21 percent increase. The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company makes digital optical networking systems sold to carriers and said its results demonstrated that customers are investing again.

7. Splunk, a privately held company in San Franciscisco that produces a tool for searching, analyzing and troubleshooting IT infrastructure, said its year through third quarter revenue was $26.6 million, compared to $13.1 for the same three quarters last year.

8. Apple Computer sold 3.05 million Macs during the third quarter, a 17 percent increase over the year-ago quarter, evidence that for consumers, some things are indispensible.

9. Mellanox Technologies, a company based in Sunnyvale, Calif., and Yokneam, Israel, reported $32.7 million in third quarter revenue this month, a 29 percent increase over its second quarter revenue of $25.3 million. It makes InfiniBand and Ethernet connectivity products.

10. Intel is a good company to end this list because its outlook on chips, with third quarter revenue of $9.4 billion, was up $1.4 billion from the prior quarter, and IT spending helped set the stage for an improving outlook. It sees "momentum."

This story, "Tech companies point to upturn in economy" was originally published by Computerworld.