What tech-industry CEOs are saying about the economy

Executives from Apple, AT&T, IBM and other tech companies comment on current and future market conditions

Sun Microsystems CEO Jonathan Schwartz

Sun Microsystems CEO Jonathan Schwartz

Until September, the US tech industry appeared insulated from the year-long economic slowdown. Most of the 20 largest US tech firms reported solid second-quarter earnings in July and August, and they were projecting continued growth in sales through the year-end. Then Wall Street crashed. Here's the latest word from tech executives about current market conditions and the outlook for the rest of this year.

Microsoft expects to keep growing

Thanks to solid enterprise software and Xbox 360 sales, Microsoft posted record revenue of more than US$15 billion for the fiscal quarter that ended September 30, 2008, a 9 percent increase from the same quarter a year ago. Net income was US$4.4 billion, compared with US$4.3 billion in the same quarter a year ago.

Microsoft executives said they saw a slowdown in sales in September and October, and CFO Chris Liddell noted on October 23, 2008 that Microsoft would adjust downward its guidance for the second fiscal quarter of 2009. Still, Liddell said "we feel extremely good about our relative competitive position and our ability to continue outgrowing IT spend. We believe our exceptionally strong cash flow, product pipeline and financial strength will allow us to weather economic conditions well."

AT&T predicts stability

Wireless subscribers and IP data are driving sales for AT&T, which posted third-quarter revenue of US$31.3 billion, up 4 percent from the same quarter a year ago. Net income was US$3.2 billion, up from US$3.1 billion a year ago.

"While the macro environment presents challenges, our business is more resilient than most," said Rick Lindner, senior executive vice president and CFO of AT&T, on October 22, 2008. "We have great assets. We're growing revenues. We continue to have opportunities to reduce costs. Our management team is experienced and tested, and our execution continues to produce good results. Wireless subscriber growth and data growth are both very strong. . . . Business trends continue to be stable."

Apple remains optimistic

Driven by iPhone 3G sales, Apple reported revenue of US$7.9 billion for the quarter that ended September 27, 2008, up 27 percent from the same quarter a year ago. New iPhones, Macbooks and iPods are expected to remain popular.

"We have the strongest product lineup in Apple's history, the most talented employees and the best customers. And $25 billion in the bank," said Steve Jobs, Apple CEO, on October 21, 2008. "We may get buffeted around by the waves a little bit, but we will be fine and stronger than ever when the waters calm in the future."

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Carolyn Duffy Marsan

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