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?