A billion reasons to read about Intel, Apple, Facebook and other tech companies

Intel, Facebook, Twitter, IBM, HP and others have a billion reasons to be happy despite the rough economy

Billions are the new millions. Intel’s investing up to $8 billion for new chip manufacturing, Facebook says the prosecution of a billion dollar spammer isn’t over and Twitter’s aiming for a billion users. The ITU says 2 billion of us will be online by the end of this year, one market watcher said the 5 billionth device plugged into the Internet in August and Apple has become the second most valuable U.S. company based on a market capitalization of around $290 billion and a stellar fiscal fourth quarter in which it posted $4.3 billion in earnings and $20.3 billion in revenue.

Intel’s investing up to $8 billion for new chip manufacturing, Facebook says the prosecution of a billion dollar spammer isn’t over and Twitter’s aiming for a billion users. The ITU says 2 billion of us will be online by the end of this year, one market watcher said the 5 billionth device plugged into the Internet in August and Apple has become the second most valuable U.S. company based on a market capitalization of around $290 billion and a stellar fiscal fourth quarter in which it posted $4.3 billion in earnings and $20.3 billion in revenue. 

If I didn't know the economy was floundering I'd think billions are the new millions.

It used to be that throwing around billions was something left mainly to very biggest companies like IBM, which each year would signal its commitment to a new market by pledging to invest $1 billion dollars in it, as it did with Linux about 10 years ago and with green technology more recently.

But now every time I turn around some company or other is talking about a billion this or that. And despite a continued rough economy, the billions usually aren’t in relation to losses, but rather to earnings, uses, devices or other indicators of the crazy growth fueled in large part by the Internet.

Also Read: How much top tech execs make

Here’s a spin through a billion (well, OK, a few less than that) recent tech stories in which billions are the focus.

Since I mentioned IBM above, let’s start there. The company recently announced plans to fork over $1.7 billion to buy data warehouse appliance company Netezza, the latest in a dizzying string of acquisitions taking place in the tech industry this year. HP has been among the other biggest spenders of late, doling out $2.35 billion for storage company 3Par and another $1.5 billion for security company ArcSight

Not that Microsoft is opposed to snapping up a company or two itself, but it inspired billion dollar headlines earlier this year when it revealed plans to spend $9.5 billion on R&D.

Gartner at its annual tech symposium this week in Florida spit out its latest stats, including that 1.4 billion PCs and 20 billion mobile devices have been installed/deployed and that 31 billion Google searches are performed each month. Last month, Gartner warned of the $500 billion in global “IT debt,” its term for the cost of maintenance needed to bring all applications up to date. 

On the topic of scary tech stats, the security industry is always good for some of those. One market watcher said over the summer that 3.7 billion phishing emails had been sent during the previous 12 months and McAfee trotted out numbers about losses from data breaches to the tune of $1.1 billion among those surveyed. 

Facebook has been rolling in billions for some time now. While it is only about halfway to the billion user mark, the social network site does say the users it has spend over a billion minutes per month on Facebook. That activity is paying off nicely for CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who was ranked No. 35 on Forbes’ recently released list of richest Americans, with a net worth of $6.9 billion. Meanwhile, Facebook’s success has attracted more than its share of scammers, including one spammer ordered to pay $1 billion in fines (OK, that’s in Canadian dollars, but the case was tried in Quebec). 

Rival social media site Twitter hit the 20 billion Tweet mark over the summer and co-founder Evan Williams recently said the microblogging site will have 1 billion users someday…though didn’t venture to say exactly when he thought that would be (the site had about 165 million users at the time he said this). 

Intel said this week it will put between $6 billion and $8 billion into producing a new generation of chips. These more power efficient chips will find their way into everything from smartphones to PCs to other consumer devices.

Of course $8 billion pales in comparison to the $19 billion AT&T recently told customers it has spent this year to revamp its wireless network. That funding went toward erecting new cell towers and prepping for faster LTE technology needed to support 4G wireless networking. 

One day billions will become trillions, and based on a few recent news stories, the time might not be long off. Tech CEOs earlier this month advised the U.S. government on how it can slash $1 trillion over the next 10 years by consolidating IT infrastructure and Gartner this week said worldwide IT enterprise spending will rise from $2.38 trillion to $2.46 trillion next year. 

Follow Bob Brown on Twitter at www.twitter.com/alphadoggs

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