Tech Bits & Bytes (DELL, MFE, ODP, TECD, QCOM)

by: William Trent, CFA

Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) and Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) have announced a deal to enable Microsoft’s Windows Mobile to run directly on Qualcomm’s communications chip, rather than requiring a separate processor. This will enable cell phone companies to make smartphone handsets lighter, thinner and cheaper. Until, of course, you add the hard drive.

Meanwhile, it looks like McAfee (MFE) may be trying to capitalize on the recent (but rare) Mac virus by putting out a scare report. Still more evidence of the very difficult competitive market in security software these days, regardless of what IDC has to say about it.

Speaking of industry analyst studies, Forrester is forecasting a 6 per cent average annual growth rate for European IT spending over the next five years. Excuse us if we don’t wet ourselves with excitement.

Lenovo has entered new channels at Best Buy and Office Depot (NYSE:ODP) recently, which could further pressure Dell Computer (NASDAQ:DELL) in the near term.

We wrote previously that distributor Tech Data (NASDAQ:TECD) is running at an uninspiring 7.7% growth rate in its US business. Now Forrester Research is predicting more of the same throughout 2006. An excerpt from their report: “The small and medium-size business (NYSEARCA:SMB) IT spending outlook for 2006 is positive, with IT budgets expected to increase by 7.2%, up from 4.8% going into 2005. The top IT initiatives for 2006 include upgrading applications, which will contribute to server spending; upgrading the security environment (a perennial hot issue); and Internet and eCommerce activities. The strong budget increase combined with the top priorities for IT will further manifest through increases in spending on the major hardware categories of PCs (55% of companies), networking equipment (51%), servers (48%), and storage (45%). For software, 50% will increase spending on security and 42% on Web applications. For outsourced services, the most demanded service for 2006 will be maintenance, development and support of applications (29% of companies), which was also the most demanded service in 2005. SMBs will turn to local and regional consulting firms and value-added resellers (VARs) for their managed services needs.”