SAN FRANCISCO -- He was one of the analysts voicing caution regarding Dell's (DELL) - Get Report fourth-quarter earnings. Now, Piper Jaffray's Ashok Kumar is saying 1999 could be the year of the cow in an upgrade of Gateway (GTW) .

Kumar upgraded Gateway to strong buy from buy and raised its price target to between 95 and 100 from 56. He upped the first-quarter earnings estimate to 90 cents a share from 59 cents, compared with the

First Call

estimate of 60 cents. He also upped estimates for fiscal year 1999 to $3.87 from $2.82 vs. the $2.79 estimate from First Call. Gateway was up 6 1/8, or 8.4%, to 79 in early trading.

In the report, Kumar said that the aggressive expansion of Gateway's Country Stores, which focus on consumers and small to medium-sized businesses, will help Gateway offset a seasonal slowdown normally seen in the first quarter. Kumar indicated that "higher customer acquisition costs and cannibalization of tele-sales will be a dark-cloud cover longer term."

An announcement from Gateway late Friday that it would be using

Advanced Micro Devices

(AMD) - Get Report

as its second supplier of chips, is helping that stock. AMD was up 1 1/2 at 19 1/8 in early trading.

Rambus on a Roll

Rambus

(RMBS) - Get Report

, which rallied following positive comments from

Morgan Stanley Dean Witter

analyst Mark Edelstone on

Friday, is extending gains after more kind words from analysts.

BancBoston Robertson Stephens

upgraded Rambus to buy from attractive with a 90 price target, while

Warburg Dillon Read

initiated coverage of Rambus with a strong buy rating.

Rambus was up 7 1/4 at 78 1/4 in early trading.

On the Merger Front

A number of mergers are brewing in the Internet world. Internet software retailer

Beyond.com

(BYND) - Get Report

announced it would acquire

BuyDirect.com

, another software retailer, in a stock-for-stock transaction. Beyond.com was up 1 3/8 at 26 1/8 in early trading.

Also,

Amazon.com

(AMZN) - Get Report

has purchased a minority interest in

Geoworks

(GWRX)

, a provider of software and service solutions for the wireless communications industry. In early trading, Amazon.com was 1 3/4 higher at 103 5/8, while Geoworks was up 3/8 at 4 5/16.

And

CNet

announced it was buying Web auctioneer

Auctiongate

for 50,000 CNet shares. CNet was trading 1/2 higher at 116 1/2 early.

Now Appearing in San Francisco

The BancBoston Robertson Stephens technology conference gets under way this morning with some big names right off the bat. Both

Cisco

(CSCO) - Get Report

and

Sun Microsystems

(SUNW) - Get Report

are among the first presenters, while

America Online

(AOL)

and

E*Trade

(EGRP)

also present this

morning. TSC will provide updated

commentary on the conference throughout the week.