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How the Rise of Mobile Will Impact Tech Earnings

A common thread though many of the tech earnings reports this cycle? The decline of the PC ecosystem and the rise of mobile.

That was on display in Intel earnings Thursday, where the company posted a 6 percent revenue drop in its PC Client Group. (Read More: Intel Profit Top Forecasts; Revenue Outlook Misses.)

Underscoring the point, Intel said to expect low single-digit revenue growth overall in 2013; while the server business will do double-digit growth, the computing business will grow in the tablet and convertible laptop segments—basically laptops that can act more like tablets.

"Sales of tablets and smartphones are tempering growth in Intel's core business," FBR Capital Markets analyst Craig Berger wrote in a research note. "Investors are fighting the PC cannibalization tide here, with relief in sight anytime soon."

Meanwhile Apple and Google are set to report earnings this coming week, and both of their growth trajectories will be profoundly affected by mobile. (Read More: Big Week Ahead for Tech Earnings.)

"I expect Apple to see a big iChristmas between iPhones, iPods, iPads," said Rocky Agrawal, an independent analyst. "I also expect a big year for Amazon."

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Big only begins to describe it. Wall Street expects Apple to have sold close to 50 million iPhones during the period, up from 37 million a year ago. If that's what Apple delivers, it will amount to more than $30 billion in revenue all by itself.

Google, meanwhile, is selling its Nexus 7 tablet at cost, hoping to drive views of mobile ads. Mobile will figure heavily into its report as it tries to cut costs in its Motorola Mobility division and grow tablet and smartphone-generated ad revenues at the same time. (Read More: Forget the Phone or Tablet: Get Ready for the 'Phablet'.)

Somewhat ironically, great Nexus 7 sales will be bad for gross margins; analysts will just want to hear assurances that the investments will pay off later.

Agrawal thinks that payoff will come—the question is which companies will be best positioned to cash in.

"We're going to see tremendous growth," he said, "both in terms of usage and actual commerce activity on tablet devices in particular."

—By CNBC's Jon Fortt; Follow him on Twitter: @jonfortt

email: tech@cnbc.com

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