Who is the Technology Bellwether?

On my news analysis blog, I posited that IBM’s strong earnings announcement this week cements the fact that IBM is no longer the technology bellwether.  On Twitter, someone asked me “if not IBM, then who is the bellwether?”  Interesting question.  To be the bellwether, I think you have to have exposure to a wide range of solutions — consumer vs. enterprise, computing vs. consumer electronics, etc.  These days, almost all of the largest companies have significant platform bets, narrow portfolios or are otherwise unbalanced when it comes to assessing the overall health of the total ecosystem.

I’d rule out Apple,Microsoft and Intelfor just those reasons.  Apple is obviously heavily consumer-focused and is at this point as much or more of a consumer electronics company than it is a “computing” company.  Microsoft has such an unusual set of arrangements, most notably its OEM arrangements with hardware manufacturers, that sometimes make its results an anomaly.  Intel is still so heavily wedded to the PC/Windows world that its results may hide the news of strength in other platforms.

If I had to pick a bellwether, I’m tempted to make the easy choice and say HP.  They have a reasonable mix of all of the above elements and are perhaps most representative of the overall health of the industry.  It’s also significant to note that they’re the largest computer company.  (I’ll bet most people, if asked, would still bet it’s IBM, but HP passed them a few years ago.)  However, let me also posit that a company like SanDisk is a good indicator.  Their storage solutions play across a wide range of devices and sectors.  Yes, they’re underweighted in the enterprise segment but that’s likely to change and, in fact, share gains they have in the enterprise would be a good indicator of a rebound in that sector because of the relative price premium you have to pay for these types of storage solutions in enterprise class.

So those are my two nominations:  HP and SanDisk.  Others?

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4 Responses

  1. Jon, why would you look to the master brands for a bellwether? They are usually well back in the pack, mining the mainstream.
    I guess it depends how you frame the question, though. Like in SaaS, I think you could say Salesforce is the bellwether, in cloud computing infrastructure Amazon, in online advertising Google, in social computing Facebook.
    But HP? Who is looking to HP for industry leadership at the moment? Perhaps you can clarify this.

  2. Well, if SanDisk is a good indicator, our Groundhog Day came today…and it presages six more, what…quarters?…of trouble: http://www.thestreet.com/_yahoo/newsanalysis/techsemis/10461642.html?cm_ven=YAHOO&cm_cat=FREE&cm_ite=NA

  3. I know I haven’t been writing — still wrestling with what to do here while employed; personal thinking vs. writing for clients, you know — but this article in today’s New York Times made me smile. A year and a half later, SanDisk “explodes” on the public consciousness.

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