What would have happened if Microsoft (MSFT) had said something positive about personal computers last night instead of something negative? How much would the stock have moved? How much would the "group" have moved?
Maybe the issue, though, is that there isn't much of a group anymore. Remember the PC makers? How about the PC component makers? They've all kind of realized this day would come, when the personal computer wouldn't have growth, and they have all moved on, including Microsoft.
Think about it: Microsoft has made a huge bet on mobile phones with Nokia (NOK). It has made a colossal bet on games with the Xbox. It has made a potentially game-changing wager on video with Skype. Sure, it is hostage to a certain degree to personal computers, but this stock isn't down 10% like it would have been even five years ago, because CEO Steve Ballmer saw this day coming. Give him that.
Same with Intel (INTC). Last night, Intel came out with one of the most significant design wins in the company's history, a deal with Motorola Mobility (MMI) to be in Android. Sure, it isn't in the Apple (AAPL) iPhone, and there will be many other chips in the mix, ones from ARM Holdings (ARMH), which is in the iPhone, along with, of course, chips from Qualcomm (QCOM), which is still the de facto cell-phone chip player.
But Intel saw the writing on the wall, too.
You may have seen the recent interview with just-retired IBM (IBM) CEO Sam Palmisano where he talked about selling its personal computer business to the Chinese PC maker Lenovo. He said the idea was much derided at the time, but clearly IBM saw this slowdown sea-change first.
But if you have been listening to Michael Dell lately, he has moved Dell (DELL) aggressively away from low-margined personal computer selling into the higher-margined software and solutions business. It hasn't paid off yet, but I think it will when things get better in Europe.
Even Micron (MU), a company with dumb chips that always had little gross margin leverage if it had any at all, has moved aggressively into flash, which has been a big winner for it.
The lone holdout, the company most reliant on personal computers of the major hardware companies, is Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), and even that tone-deaf, customer-blind company was trying to ditch personal computers during the waning days of the previous CEO's tenure.
That's why the tech sector wasn't poleaxed by the Microsoft news. It doesn't mean there aren't huge problems with many of these companies, some of which could still report some pretty nasty quarters, particularly those in the enterprise business or in the telecommunications business.
But the days when a negative personal computer comment from Microsoft can take the whole tech group down are now over, and it's time for those who regard personal computers as a growth vehicle to wake up and smell the coffee. It's just not where the action is anymore, and even the companies that pioneered the device and made it great at last know better.