NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) - Get Report and Dell (DELL) - Get Report helped push stocks into positive territory late Friday, after Dell, the world's No. 2 PC maker, reported better-than-expected third-quarter earnings Thursday afternoon.

Sidestepping the down-sales woes that hit

Cisco

(CSCO) - Get Report

a week ago,

Dell came shining through

with 45 cents EPS vs. estimates of 32 cents a share and sales of $15.39 billion, up 19% from a year ago but below analysts' estimates of $15.74 billion.

Investors didn't seem bothered by fourth-quarter guidance estimates, which Dell said will track slightly higher than the third quarter's, while analysts are expecting $16.28 billion. Dell shares surged in pre-market trading Friday almost 4% to $14.20, then rallied Friday.

The highlight of Dell's earnings was its gross margin, which came in at 19.2%, well above Wall Street's estimate of 17.5%. Dell attributed the growth to improvements in its supply chain, pricing discipline and reduced component costs.

Dell closed Friday up 23 cents, or 1.68%, at $13.90.

Now it's on to HP, which reports fiscal fourth-quarter results Monday after the bell. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters are looking for revenue of $32.75 billion and earnings of $1.27 a share, compared to sales of $30.8 billion and earnings of $1.14 a share in the same period last year.

With Dell Thursday afternoon, chipmaker

Marvell

(MRVL) - Get Report

,

Salesforce.com

(CRM) - Get Report

and small business bellwether

Intuit

(INTU) - Get Report

reported earnings, too. All reported solid numbers, but it was Salesforce.com that saw the best investor reaction.

The CRM software maker said

year-over-year sales increased 30%

to $429 million while adjusted profit rose 12% to 32 cents a share (analysts were expecting 31 cents EPS on sales of $410.4 million). Shares soared immediately in after-hours trading, and on Friday afternoon,

Salesforce shares hit a new high

of $134.95; they're up more than 80% since the beginning of the year.

Intuit, which beat sales and profit expectations, saw its stock drop more than 7% Friday. Investors disliked the company's report of costs associated with two recent acquisitions; Intuit is predicting adjusted earnings of 36 cents to 40 cents a share for the next quarter, while analysts want to see 45 cents.

The stabilizing but still-hurting small business sector also weighed on the company; according to Intuit's monthly small business employment index, there's been a 2.7% annualized increase in small biz hiring. "That's a slight uptick ... Although

that rate won't get anyone out of the recession any time soon," said CEO Brad Smith on the conference call.

Intuit closed Friday down $3.27, or 6.78%, at $44.93, Salesforce closed up $20.97, or 18.11%, at $136.74.

The tech sector's consolidation streak continued on Monday, with

EMC's

(EMC)

deal to acquire Isilon (ISLN) for $2.25billion

, which prompted speculation

about the next big round of storage M&A.

EMC's stock closed up 31 cents, or 1.44%, at $21.82 on Friday.

Apple

made some noise Tuesday when it announced that

Beatles tunes are now available on iTunes.

Keeping the British band off the service was a trademark dispute between the California tech firm and the Beatles' former record label,

Apple Corps

, which was settled in 2007.

In separate news, the consumer tech giant is said to be

planning to abandon

its carrier-agnostic iPhone SIM card strategy.

Overseas, Apple partner

China Unicom

, which has an exclusive deal to sell the iPhone in China, will

start selling its own smartphone, the UPhone,

later this year.

Apple shares closed down $1.70, or 0.55%, at $306.73 on Friday.

Sales of

Activision Blizzard's

(ATVI) - Get Report

Call of Duty: Black Ops

topped $650 million

in its first five days of release, breaking movie, book and video game sales records.

Black Ops

shattered a record previously held by

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare

, which generated $550 million in its first five days of sales.

Despite the buzz, shares of Activision, which are up 1.54% for the week, fell 0.36% Friday to close at $11.68.

Cisco

(CSCO) - Get Report

, which recently sent shockwaves through the tech sector with its comments on IT spending, was also in the news this week, teaming with

VMware

(VMW) - Get Report

and

Citrix

(CTXS) - Get Report

to provide virtualization services on its forthcoming Cius business tablet.

Cisco shares ended flat on Friday, closing at $19.61.

--Written by James Rogers in New York.

>To follow the writer on Twitter, go to

http://twitter.com/jamesjrogers

.

>To submit a news tip, send an email to:

tips@thestreet.com