In the last three months, Unisys vaulted from an ignominious 16th and last place to ninth place in a quarterly ranking of the business health of computing companies produced by Technology Business Research.
Apple's recovery, though slower, has been no less dramatic. In the last year, Apple rose from second-to-last to seventh place in the current ranking.
"In its fiscal year 1998, Apple proved that it could be profitable on a limited set of core products," TBRI said. And strong unit sales, combined with good management of cash resources and inventory, put the company in a strong position for the next fiscal year.
Unisys's improvement is the result of its decision to dump its PC division, leaving desktop, portable, and workstation manufacturing tasks to HP, and putting the company's own attention on its services business, said TBRI analyst Lindy Lesperance.
IBM moved up from seventh place to sixth in this quarter's study, which compares the companies on the basis of products, marketing, manufacturing, and business model in the fourth quarter of 1999.
At the bottom of the heap, though, the stories aren't so glamorous.
"Toshiba's PC business was originally founded back when portable PCs were the sweet spot of the market, and the company is still struggling to recover from the loss of this easy profitability," TBRI said.
Acer, for its part, was hammered by plummeting PC prices, an event that has brought many competitors into Acer's low-cost domain, TBRI said. The company has been forced to rely on making PCs for other companies--including IBM's Aptiva line, according to one industry source.
Packard Bell NEC, which is NEC's largest PC unit, is in "serious trouble," TBRI said.
"For two years, under Beny Alagem, PB-NEC delayed making the major structural and business model changes that were required to return the company to profitable growth. Instead, PB-NEC's management kept going back to NEC with 'hat in hand' asking for more bail-out money. NEC continued to pay until it got control of PB-NEC, and now the organization, sans Alagem, is being forced to make the changes that were so long delayed," but those changes may be too late, TBRI said.