Can the PC Stock Universe Come Back?

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In the world to tech, there is old tech, current tech and future tech. Old tech got spanked this week, as Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT) proved that its Windows PC business continues to struggle and its hardware play — Surface — is a failure. The ripples made their way to the major chip companies Intel Corp. (NASDAQ: INTC) and, in an ever greater slaughter, faltering Advanced Micro Devices Inc.(NYSE: AMD). Most investors expect the PC chip companies will face sales erosion as consumer tastes run toward tablets and smartphones.

Also deeply damaged, Wall St. assumes, are PC-centric Dell Inc. (NASDAQ: DELL), roiled by a takeover batter between Michael Dell and Carl Icahn, and Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ), the most embattled tech company of the past decade. HP may never come back. Changes in management and its board, and poor M&A, have sunk the firm.

The question, a simple one, for all the PC-age firms: Can they migrate products to smaller devices? Most experts believe not. Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) and Samsung, especially, have taken positions so high on the food chain of smartphones and tablets that they cannot be caught by either smaller competitors HTC and LG, or the aged behemoths of the past. Windows Mobile is not a favorite of smartphone users, despite a mighty marketing try by Redmond. Intel and AMD have built chips for small devices, but they have not found much demand. HP and Dell have never made inroads, which they might have had they started early enough. They could not leverage their brands to challenge the early success of the iPhone

The only alternatives the elders of the tech companies have is to move toward the strongest of the current tech leaders — Google Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG). However, the largest search company demonstrated that mobile advertisers spend less that those who run ads on PCs. Google’s margins are eroding as it moves where it wants to be — on smartphones. As Google’s fortunes stagger, so do the attractiveness of its part of the tech universe.

The last alternative for the companies from the PC ecosystem is to move toward social media, targeting particularly Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ: FB). Its future is viewed with skepticism for the same reason Google’s is. Mobile revenue is rarely as strong as that from the PC. Future tech has lost its luster.

Old tech might move into the present or future. However, neither has much promise.