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3 Topics to Watch When Intel Corp. Reports Earnings

Chip giant Intel (NASDAQ: INTC) will be reporting its earnings results after market close today. Here are three topics I'll be paying close attention to during management conference call with analysts.

Image source: Intel.

The personal computer market in 2018

More than half of Intel's revenue -- 54.8% in the first six months of 2017 -- comes from its client computing group (CCG) business, which primarily sells processors and other components that go into personal computers. The health of the personal computer market, then, is a critical factor in Intel's business success; a booming market likely means healthy revenue and profits, while a depressed one would put a damper on Intel's financial results.

Recently, market research company Gartner (NYSE: IT) predicted that personal computer shipments would, after a long string of annual declines, enjoy modest shipment growth in 2018, with growth continuing in 2019.

Intel probably has more insight into where the personal computer market is heading than any other company given that it supplies most of the industry's processors and has tight relationships with all major personal computer vendors. So I hope Intel management fills us in on their view of the personal computer market in 2018.

Data center progress

Intel has made it clear that it's betting big on its data center business. This is the market where the company seems to see the most opportunity for growth, both from sales of its processors as well as from sales of other components like solid state drives, connectivity technologies, and specialized accelerators.

For years, Intel had told investors to expect a compounded annual growth growth rate in revenue of 15% (though this has been revised down to merely "double digits"), but the chip giant has had a hard time hitting that goal. For example, Intel's data center business grew by a little less than 8% last year, and by just 11% in 2015.

Intel isn't forecasting double-digit revenue growth for this year, but the company indicated that it expects to get back on track to its goal in 2018 and beyond. If I were on the conference call, I'd ask: Does Intel still expect its datacenter group (DCG) to return to double-digit revenue growth in 2018 based on the business trends it has seen thus far? If so, what are the main hurdles to Intel hitting that growth rate?

A product and process update

Back on the July 2015 earnings call, Intel provided what CEO Brian Krzanich called a "process and product technology update."

At that time, Krzanich told investors that the company was planning to introduce a third generation of products using its 14-nanometer technology (something that was unusual at the time because Intel had historically used a manufacturing technology for just two generations) while it worked out the kinks with its follow-on 10-nanometer technology.

I think the time is right for a similar update.

Here's what I'd ask about this:

  • Is Intel still on track to ship its first 10-nanometer processors by the end of the year?
  • When does Intel foresee transitioning a large part of its processor product portfolio to 10-nanometer technology?
  • What impact to gross profit margin will there be, if any, as Intel transitions its product line over to 10-nanometer tech?

I'd also like to see some insights into Intel's view of the competitive landscape in both the personal computer market as well as the data center business.

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Ashraf Eassa owns shares of Intel. The Motley Fool recommends Gartner and Intel. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.