Corporate spending on computers and software gathered steam last quarter, bolstering sales and profit at Microsoft Corp., Intel Corp. and International Business Machines Corp.

Results from all three companies this week surpassed analysts' predictions, with Microsoft saying yesterday that sales climbed to $17.4 billion in its fiscal fourth quarter. That topped the $17.2 billion average estimate of analysts. Intel's revenue forecast for the current quarter, released a day earlier, also exceeded projections.

Companies are replacing aging desktop machines and equipping data centers to deliver computing over the Internet, via the so-called cloud. That's fueling demand for new versions of Microsoft programs for businesses, more powerful chips from Intel and technology services provided by IBM. It's also making up for sluggish PC buying from consumers in developed markets.

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