How to Really Make a Fortune on the "Mobile Wave"
If you've been riding along with me for any length of time, you know I get really revved up whenever I talk about the "Mobile Wave" in technology.
The truth is, I can't help it: I look at the forecasts, calculate all the money that can be made, and end up feeling as jazzed as can be about the windfall profits we can reap from this transformational trend.
And I'm not the only one who's feeling this technology-fueled ebullience: The folks over at Amazon.com are clearly experiencing the same adrenalin-driven affliction.
Amazon, you see, is coming out with its own smartphone.
And not just any smartphone. Amazon's entry into smartphone derby is going to be one cool mobile device – highlighted by a 3D screen that will display photos so realistically that you'll want to just reach out and touch them.
Why in the world, you might ask, is an "e-tailer" entering the wireless-phone business?
Just look at the numbers.
Forget Q4: Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) Earnings Must Deliver in December
Even though Apple Inc.'s (Nasdaq: AAPL) earnings for Q4 aren't yet out – they'll be announced after Thursday's market close – the company is much more concerned with beating last year's spectacular December quarter, the company's fiscal first quarter.
Apple's Q1 earnings last year blew past all expectations. Apple earned $13.87 per share – more than doubling the profit from the year-earlier quarter — by selling a record 37 million iPhones and 11 million iPads.
And Apple is going to need the profits from every gadget it can sell if it hopes to top that benchmark.
That's why all eyes were focused on the long-anticipated iPad Mini yesterday (Tuesday), but the real story was the avalanche of product updates unleashed just in time to supercharge for its critical December quarter.
In addition to the Apple iPad Mini, the special event in San Jose, CA, included the surprise announcement of the fourth generation iPad, a revamp of the iMac and Mac Mini desktops, and a the upgrade of the 13-inch MacBook Pro laptop to a high-res Retina display.
"We're not taking our foot off the gas," said Apple CEO Tim Cook.
When taken together with the iPhone 5 launch and the upgrades to the iPod Touch and iPod Nano just last month, it adds up to an uncharacteristic bunching of product updates.
It means lots of fresh Apple gear in stores for the holidays, historically the company's biggest quarter of the year.
Why Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) Needs Great Q1 Earnings
In a sense, Apple has become a victim of its own success.
The explosive growth of Apple earnings, driven by the explosive growth of iPhone sales (and that product's huge profit margins), has made huge earnings increases routine.
But Apple knows the tough comparisons to year-ago quarters will get Wall Street's attention.
And as Apple's growth rate slows, so will the rise of the stock.
Apple iPhone 5 Now a Golden Goose for Verizon and AT&T
Since the debut of the iPhone in 2007, the profit parade has mostly been a one-way street – but after five years, the major wireless carriers finally figured out how to make money with the Apple iPhone 5.
That means another way for you to make money from the iPhone 5, without having to buy Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) stock.
Apple has raked in billions while first AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), and later Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ), and Sprint Nextel Corp. (NYSE: S), had their margins slammed by the huge subsidies they sent to Cupertino.
But evolving consumer habits and the Apple iPhone 5's addition of LTE network technology will soon change that in a big way.
The carriers are hoping the much higher data transfer speeds of LTE – approximately 10 times faster than 3G – will coax iPhone 5 owners to use more data-heavy functions, particularly video.
"With these great networks coming on, [data] usage is going to go up. Revenues will go up," AT&T Chief Financial Officer John Stephens said at recent media and communications conference.
While the carriers will still have to fork over the same fat subsidies to Apple they always have, the new data equation means they'll make the money back much more quickly. And that will translate into bigger profits.
Bulletproof Money Will Be a Thief's Worst Nightmare – and Help Drive the Mobile Wave
Imagine checking in at the airport, buying a cup of coffee at a local café, even paying for your clothes or groceries at the store's register… all with a quick wireless scan of your smartphone.
It's all possible today, thanks to a new type of tech called Near Field Communications (NFC).
No coins to fumble with. No waiting while the store's machine dials up your bank. No receipts to sign and then stuff into your pocket. The spread of NFC technology is a win-win for the customer and the merchant alike.
With NFC, your phone becomes your wallet. It's able to "talk" to any vendor, bank, brokerage, or credit card firm you like. This technology is set to take the world by storm.
In as little as a decade, billions of people around the world will convert to digital currency as their means of paying for the things they need every day.
There's just one thing slowing it all down right now – mobile security.
Using mobile phones as de facto wallets alarms some people. They fear that if your phone gets stolen, thieves could gain access to every bank, brokerage, or store account you have.
But that's about to change…
Making Digital Money Bulletproof
Indeed, much to the chagrin of thieves and con artists, mobile security will hasten the advent of bulletproof digital money used around the world.
I had the chance to talk about this with Michael Saylor, author of the best-selling new book "Mobile Wave: How Mobile Intelligence Will Change Everything." Saylor, who also serves as CEO of MicroStrategy Inc. (NASDAQgs:MSTR), told me alarmists are missing the big picture:
"I think the most important thing to be said about mobile security, and maybe mobile identity, is there are one million organizations in the world that have obsolete, ineffective identification systems now. Most of these things – passports, credit cards, driver's license, even things we think are reasonably secure, aren't. And many things aren't secure at all.
"I think that it's now possible to create a mobile identity system that runs on a smartphone which is anywhere from 100 times to 10,000 times as secure. Not only are they more secure, it's impossible to counterfeit and impossible to forge."
In fact, there are three key security features Saylor believes will make mobile commerce the standard of safe business transactions in just a few years.
Investing in the Robotics Revolution
You may not live or work with any robots today… but you will soon.
The robotics market is about to explode.
I predict that, in the next few years, we will see swarms of robots entering the workplace.
Of course, we've had bots working in factories for years now. But as they get both cheaper and smarter, we will find lots of new jobs for them to do. And they'll do those jobs better and better.
Robots of all sizes are already capable of doing some very complex tasks: They can perform surgery, hair transplants, and even climb inside the human body – through the mouth – to "eat" stomach cancers.
To understand the scale of the robotics revolution, just look at what's happening in China.
Cheap labor in that nation not only stole U.S. jobs, it vaulted China to the front ranks of fast-growing markets. But now robots are invading Chinese factories in a big way.
Take the case of Foxconn International Holdings Ltd., which is based in Taiwan and makes electronic components and other goods for big computer firms (it supplies parts for the iPad, iPhone, Xbox, and Kindle).
Well, Foxconn announced it plans to buy enough robots to replace roughly half the firm's 1.2 million workers in China. This is the largest robotics rollout in the history.
The trade group the International Federation of Robotics says there are about one million industrial robots now in use around the world. So, based on Foxconn's rollout alone – one company in one country – we know that figure is set to more than double by the end of the decade.
The robotics revolution is here.
So what's a clever tech investor to do?
Let's dig into the latest activities of one visionary robotics expert who's so engrossed in the field, he once told a reporter he winced when RoboCop went "belly up"…
Buy, Sell or Hold: The Real Winner in the Yahoo (YHOO) vs Facebook Fight Could Be Augme Technologies (AUGT)
I love to find asymmetric risk/reward scenarios in the market.
You can do that with a small company which has the ability to unlock a large payday – and I believe I have found one with Augme Technologies Inc. (OTC: AUGT ).
To understand the value of mobile marketing company Augme, first we have to look at what Yahoo! Inc. (Nasdaq: YHOO) has done to Facebook.
Ripples shot through the technology space last week when Yahoo launched an all-out patent assault against Facebook.
Yahoo is demanding billions in licensing fees for the use of its technologies.
Yahoo has asserted claims on patents that include the technical mechanisms in Facebook's ads, privacy controls, newsfeed and messaging service.
In simple terms, Yahoo is getting ready to try and bring Facebook to its knees through legal means.
"Yahoo has a responsibility to its shareholders, employees and other stakeholders to protect its intellectual property," a Yahoo spokesman said in an e-mailed statement. "We must insist that Facebook either enter into a licensing agreement or we will be compelled to move forward unilaterally to protect our rights."
Should Yahoo sue Facebook, it would mark the first major legal battle among technology giants in the social media sphere.
Yahoo's patent claims come hot on the heels of Facebook's IPO announcement to raise money that would roughly give them a $100 billion valuation.
This lawsuit threat can only have Facebook's management, its bankers and lawyers rushing to secure some sort of defensive arsenal to fight off this and other pending attacks.
While this battle has captured everyone's attention, what I find more interesting is Yahoo's seemingly blatant hypocrisy.
Yahoo appears to be throwing rocks from its glass house at the neighbors by wanting to make others pay for the unauthorized use of its patented technology.
What Yahoo is seemingly trying to ignore is that it, too, has been accused of the same type of intellectual property theft – and the accuser is Augme Technologies.
Tech Sector: Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) Earnings Show It’s Gearing Up for a Rebound
New Products and Cheap Shares Mean It's Time to Buy Google Inc. (Nasdaq: GOOG)
The company finally appears to be on the path toward shaping up its many facets, giving advertisers more reason to promote on the network – and putting more money in Google's fat pockets.
It helps when a company is challenged by a fierce rival or two, and right now Google's getting a motivating push from Facebook Inc. and Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT). I am particularly impressed with Google Plus (Google+), the search giant's new attack on Facebook. It is a rethink of the social web that looks like it could actually gain traction in coming months and years.
There is a huge opportunity in the social web for people who don't quite get Facebook, which is a large percentage of the population over age 25. For my teenage kids, Facebook practically is the Internet. They do all their messaging, e-mailing and photo-sharing there in one great big group hug; what's made available to one friend is made available to all.
But there are hordes of people who would never want to share their lives with all their friends, and compartmentalize their lives between work, neighborhood, old high school buddies and the like. For them, the social media team at Google+ has created the concept of "circles," which allows you to share some photos and links with one group of friends to the exclusion of others. And all of your Google contacts can easily be interwoven into a larger conversation in a way that escapes the confines of instant messaging or e-mail.