Today's Top Tech Stories: Earnings Disappoint, All Eyes on China

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With volatility spiking in the markets and massive up-and-down swings becoming the norm, we're taking a look at the three top technology stories each day after the market closes. Let's get right to the action.

Tech News No. 1: A Disappointing Night for Tech Earnings
In this skittish tech market, companies need to be prepared to see their share prices slashed -- not only if the top and bottom lines look shaky, but also if forward-looking guidance comes in light. After the market closed tonight, three companies reported, and all are getting hammered after hours.

  • Blue Coat Systems (NAS: BCSI) : The security and WAN optimization expert has seen its share price nearly cut in half since the start of the year. Tonight's report looks to continue that losing trend. Not only did revenues and earnings come in light, but CEO Michael Borman will also be replaced with a new CEO mid-next month. With the company in a turnaround mode, focusing on increasing its sales force and finding better traction in the high-growth WAN optimization field, the sudden CEO shift appears to be an acknowledgement of the board's dissatisfaction with Blue Coat's direction.

    See an analysis of three areas to look out for in Blue Coat's recent quarter.
  • Dell (NAS: DELL) also announced earnings after the bell and is seeing its shares taking a beating in extended trading. The culprit? A weak forecast for the coming quarter and light revenues. In the long run, Dell's still trying to transform itself from a PC seller into a diversified hardware and services company. That kind of transformation takes time, but early signs suggest that Dell is struggling to gain a foothold in several key value-add markets. While Dell's cash reserves might look enticing, similar value propositions can be found in rivals Hewlett-Packard (NYS: HPQ) -- which trades at only 6.5 times this year's earnings -- and IBM, a company that features the business model Dell aspires to and trades at a modest 14 times trailing earnings.
  • The last after-hours disappointment came from Analog Devices (NYS: ADI) . The company posted a disappointing 4% sequential decline, which it blamed on an unusually strong prior quarter. In another market, Analog Devices' explanation that problems are temporary might have held more weight, but with investors fretting over a decline in semiconductor demand, management isn't getting the benefit of the doubt in the current environment.

Tech Story No. 2: Continuing fears surround Chinese Internet companies
China E-Commerce Dangdang
(NYS: DANG) reported a steeper loss than expected this morning and was treated to a brutal sell-off, closing the day down 14%. While forecasts for the Chinese e-commerce market are extremely encouraging -- with some research firms believing it can pass the U.S. by 2015 -- the razor-thin economics also lead to large losses as companies try to establish themselves in a market. As an example, look no further than Amazon.com's slog to growth in America. There's a large addressable market ahead of Dangdang, but its efforts to ramp up and offer a wide variety of products that expands away from its traditional book niche could lead to continuing heavy losses in the quarters to come.

In the search and display advertising segment, both SINA (NAS: SINA) and Baidu (NAS: BIDU) were hit hard today. E-Commerce Dangdang's miss certainly didn't help, but neither did a Chinese media report critical of Baidu's advertising practices. As Google found out last year, running a profitable business in China invariably requires strict compliance and good relations with the government and its mandates.

With SINA's fate increasingly tied to its Weibo social network, the fear of increasing government meddling can quickly move shares. Social media has played a central role not only in Middle Eastern uprisings but also in developed countries, as seen with Britain's recent riots. If China decides to get assertive about controlling social media, it could kill the popularity of Weibo and make SINA's forward P/E of 54 come crashing back down to Earth.

Top Tech Story No. 3: More on Google and Motorola
The market continues to look down on Google's purchase of Motorola Mobility. Shares of the search giant slid another 3.3% today after yesterday's sell-off. Continuing concerns center on how partners will react and on what good having a hardware division can add to Google.

See my analysis on four underreported storylines around the deal.

That's it for today's tech checkup. To stay updated on all your favorite technology stocks, make sure to add them to our free My Watchlist service. It delivers up-to-date news and analysis on all of your favorite companies. In the case of Dell, Analog Devices, and Blue Coat, that'll also mean more in-depth earnings analysis published tomorrow on The Motley Fool:

At the time this article was published Eric Bleeker owns shares of no companies listed above. You can follow him on Twitter to see all of his technology and market commentary.The Motley Fool owns shares of Google and IBM. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Baidu, Google, and SINA. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Copyright © 1995 - 2011 The Motley Fool, LLC. All rights reserved. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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