Tallahassee Journal

The week that was in tech earnings

The week that was in tech earnings

Apple towered over the industry with a record $18 billion profit and nearly 75 million iPhones sold in the last three months of 2014. The performance was so comprehensive, some analysts speculated about the possibility of Apple eventually topping $1 trillion in market value. After nearly every major tech company — from Apple to Yahoo — announced results this week, the emerging narrative is the industry, on average, performed well and is poised to benefit from upgrades and products such as Apple Watch and Windows 10 in 2015.apple3-9-1331322264

“The fourth quarter is the big quarter for spending from advertisers,” says analyst Brian Blau, research director at Gartner. “What I saw, overall, bodes well for the U.S. economy.” Apple killed the quarter, but Facebook came close with sterling results that underscore their continued successful forays into personalized technology and mobile ads — at the expense of Google and Yahoo.

Facebook reaches 1.39 billion people — the world’s most populous country, China, has 1.36 billion people — and it is literally printing money with its mobile ads. Its quarterly revenue shot up 49%, to a record $3.85 billion.

Google, no slouch, racked up $18.1 billion in revenue. But its revenue and earnings missed analysts’ expectations (more on that concept later).

For Apple’s and Google’s typically strong results, there was the unpredictable (Amazon.com reported an occasional quarterly profit) and the downright weird. AT&T said it lost $4 billion yet still narrowly topped financial expectations.

eBay (2,400 announced layoffs) and Microsoft (steep costs that cut into profits) stumbled out of the gate to start the earnings parade, and Alibaba ended it with disappointing sales.

While Apple benefited from big sales of its bigger-screen iPhones and a spike in business in China, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer relied — again — on cash cow Alibaba. Yahoo plans to spin off its $40 billion stake in the Chinese e-commerce giant, which largely brought in a cool $1 billion in earnings for Yahoo in 2014. The move essentially buys Mayer another year at the Yahoo helm.

Then, there are expectations, with eyes on the next quarterly go-around. If Apple faces a nearly impossible task of topping its latest quarter — its earnings eclipsed the previous record of $15.9 billion by Exxon Mobil in 2012 — Microsoft has an equally tall order in convincing investors its comeback under new CEO Satya Nadella is still on track.