Intel Proves the Doubters Wrong

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Did we -- and I mean everybody -- misread the PC market?

It looks that way today in the light of Intel's (NAS: INTC) third-quarter report. Non-GAAP earnings jumped 33% year over year to $0.69 per share on $14.3 billion in revenue -- a 29% annual boost. Both numbers were comfortably higher than analyst targets, and the midpoint of the fourth quarter's revenue guidance landed 3% above Street projections as well. Intel shares climbed more than 4% for most the day while the broader Nasdaq swooned. Intel shares reached levels not seen since before the economic meltdown in 2008.

This is all good news for Intel investors, made even better by a $10 billion addition to the already-generous share-buyback program. And hey, don't forget that Intel recently reupped its dividend -- the second payout boost in 2011. None of this is terribly surprising, though. It's just how this shareholder-friendly company rolls.

No, the real shock is the source of this stellar performance. Yep, Intel leaned on regular old PC systems more than on servers or tablets. "We were very pleased with the momentum in our notebook PC business and consumer demand for our industry-leading second-generation Intel Core processor family," said CEO Paul Otellini.

But isn't the PC market dead or at least dying? Apple (NAS: AAPL) is killing the PC space with iPads and iPhones, after all.

Then again, Intel rival Advanced Micro Devices (NYS: AMD) recently showed signs of decent PC demand as well, even as it slashed financial targets because of a manufacturing hiccup. And as circumstantial evidence for the same trend, big-iron giant IBM (NYS: IBM) really didn't impress anybody with this quarter's anemic results. Maybe Hewlett-Packard (NYS: HPQ) really should hold on to its market-leading PC division after all. Perhaps Dell (NAS: DELL) should reverse course and refocus on consumer systems in the end.

There's always a catch, though. You see, the magic isn't happening in America. The consumer growth is happening elsewhere. "China was up 12%, India 21%, Turkey 14%, and Indonesia 23%," Otellini explained. "China is now the No. 1 PC consumption market in the world, while Brazil has become No. 3."

So the American PC patient is still in critical condition, but opportunities abound outside our borders. We weren't all that wrong after all.

What will Intel do next do delight, surprise, or frustrate shareholders?Add Intel to your Foolish watchlist, and you'll be sure to catch the news while it's still piping hot.

At the time this article was published Fool contributorAnders Bylundholds no position in any of the companies discussed here. The Motley Fool owns shares of Intel, Apple, and IBM.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of Intel, Apple, and Dell, creating a diagonal call position in Intel, and creating a bull call spread position in Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. You can check outAnders' holdings and a concise bio, follow him onTwitterorGoogle+, or peruseour Foolish disclosure policy.

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