Boy, Microsoft should have paid more attention to all those bright young hackers. A lot more.
Back in November 2010, when Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ:MSFT) unveiled its Kinect product to the public.
Kinect is a motion-sensing input device that responds to full body movements - no remote required - as well as gestures and vocal commands.
It made a great add-on to the firm's popular Xbox 360 game unit. Indeed, it turned the gaming world upside down two years ago, immediately expanding the appeal of gaming to dancers, athletes, and even the elderly. (Kinect is a verifiable nursing home hit.)
Yet it soon became clear that it was to become much, much more than that.
The motion-sensing technology behind Kinect is breakthrough high tech. I predict it will have hundreds of applications that could be worth billions to investors.
Musicians could put on live concerts with a virtual "band" backing them up. Kids could learn to mimic the exact movements of their favorite sports stars.
Online shoppers could use a personal avatar that lets them virtually "try on" clothes before buying them. Stroke victims could receive physical therapy through their home PCs or their smart TVs.
With the gesture controls, surgeons could even access patient files, send alerts to other doctors, even pull down facts from the Web if needed - all without leaving the confines of a sterile environment.
As I see it, motion sensors will change the future of gaming, architecture, design, medicine, and much more...
No wonder hackers jumped on board in droves.
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Microsoft Kinect (NASDAQ: MSFT) is Virtual Goldmine
Not long ago, the future of Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT) was slipping through its grasp.
Then it introduced Kinect.
Today, the tech giant is using Kinect to win big on a breakthrough that will literally touch millions of lives.
It is one of the reasons why Microsoft's stock has gained more than 20% this year.
What is Kinect?
You may recognize it as the best-selling add-on to the Xbox 360 video game. But it's much more than that.
It represents a revolution in how we will communicate with our computers, our TVs, and our smartphones.
For Microsoft, Kinect is literally a game changer. They lead the world in the technology behind it and it promises to be big.
But not just for Microsoft...not by a long shot.
The Promise Behind Microsoft KinectThe magic behind Kinect is that it responds to body gestures.
And while Kinect did debut to rave reviews, Microsoft executives really didn't understand how Kinect could change the world -- and rack up new sales.
But since its introduction in 2010, hackers have found dozens of very cool uses for Kinect-- none of which did much for Microsoft's bottom line.
This got the software giant to thinking that maybe they were sitting on a potential gold mine.
That's why Microsoft is now tapping the genius of young entrepreneurs to better monetize the technology behind Kinect.
You know, the type of guys who live and breathe cutting-edge high tech.
In fact, Microsoft recently picked 11 startups to work at its Kinect development offices in suburban Seattle. It's a savvy move.
After all, these guys get out of bed every day looking to create the Next Big Thing.
Already, the program shows great promise. Here are some of the slick high-tech ideas these young turks are already tackling:
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The Antitrust Curse: What Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) Can Learn From Microsoft, IBM
On the surface, it would appear that Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) has little to fear from the antitrust lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice last week.
The DOJ accused Apple of colluding with several major publishers to fix the prices of electronic books in its iBookstore.
The evidence was strong enough that three of the five book publishers settled before the DOJ filed the suit. Two, Macmillan and the Pearson PLC (NYSE ADR: PSO) Penguin Group, decided to fight the charges along with Apple.
The antitrust case itself poses little threat to Apple. With $100 billion in the bank, it can afford to fight government lawyers until doomsday.
Even losing the case wouldn't make much of a dent in Apple's pocketbook. The three publishers that settled paid a combined $51 million, hardly a concern to a company that earns an average of $120 million every day in profits.
Likewise, a remedy that forces Apple to lower prices for e-books in its iBookstore would have almost no impact on earnings. Nearly all of Apple's profits come from sales of high-margin hardware like the iPhone and iPad. Profits from all iTunes Store segments, which include the far more voluminous sales of apps and music, account for less than 4% of Apple's profits.
And yet this antitrust suit poses the biggest threat Apple has faced in years, as former tech kings Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT) and International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE: IBM) can attest.
"This echoes back to the peak in Microsoft," Sean Udall, author of Minyanville's TechStrat Report, said in a Yahoo! Finance interview. "Microsoft had a monopoly and was doing great and was the star tech stock of yesteryear. And you can almost draw the peak of their stock when they had major DOJ issues."
The problem with being in the DOJ's gunsight is that it distracts management, makes the company hesitant to innovate, and blemishes the company's public image.
While antitrust woes may not have been entirely responsible for Microsoft and IBM ceding their dominant positions in tech, they were clearly a major factor.
And worse for Apple, the e-book case could be just the beginning.
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Microsoft, Intel and Cisco Follow Path Predicted in 'Leaders to Laggards' Series
Money Morning subscribers who read our Leaders to Laggards series on the flagging fortunes of Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT), Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) and Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) weren't surprised by subsequent developments, since we told you exactly what to expect.
The Leaders to Laggards articles described how each company's failure to anticipate changes in their markets undermined their ability to grow revenue. Consequently, their stocks - which many investors rode to massive profits in the 1990s - have languished for the past decade.
Those tribulations have continued since the publication of our series. Microsoft and Cisco have struggled mightily, and as predicted, only Intel has managed to make headway.
Why Intel Is Still a 'Buy'Intel surprised Wall Street with better-than-expected earnings last week - its standout divisions pointing the way to the future growth that for years had eluded the company.
Profits were up 2%, while revenue jumped 21% year-over-year. And gross margins edged up to 64% from 61% in the previous quarter.
Revenue from data centers, which provide the infrastructure for the cloud-computing trend that is now beginning to dominate mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones, was up 15.2% and accounted for nearly 20% of total sales.
Intel sees data centers as a major source of growth. The company expects sales to rise to $10 billion this year and to $20 billion within five years.
An even bigger surprise was the strength in the chipmaker's PC business, which accounted for 64% of Intel's revenue. Sales of the PC division rose 11% despite sluggish growth of about 2.5% in the overall PC market.
"We knew that there would be strength in the servers, but to see double-digit growth in their PC unit is great," Michael Shinnick, a money managerat Wasatch Advisors Inc.,told Bloomberg News.
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Verizon iPhone On the Way – But Not Before Christmas
Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) will escalate the war for smartphone dominance in early 2011 by releasing a new version of its iPhone to run on the popular Verizon Wireless (NYSE: VZ) network, the biggest U.S. carrier by subscribers.
However, the phone won't make it out in time for the Christmas season, as many had hoped.
Apple will be ramping up to mass produce the new touchscreen handset by the end of 2010 and release it in the first quarter of 2011, people familiar with the matter told The Wall Street Journal. While the phone would be similar to the iPhone 4 sold by its current carrier, AT&T (NYSE: T), it would be based on an alternative wireless technology used by Verizon, the people said.
The Verizon iPhone will mark the end of AT&T's agreement with Apple that gave the telecommunications giant exclusive rights to market and sell the handset since 2007, when Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs introduced the original iPhone.
Verizon has been testing its networks and capacity to handle the heavy data load by iPhone users, seeking to avoid the kind of bad publicity that plagued AT&T after booming sales of data-hungry iPhones crippled its network.
Buy, Sell or Hold: With $44 Billion in Cash and a Focus on Shareholder Value, It's Time to Buy Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT)
The last time I recommended Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT), Bill Clinton was in the White House. But it's time to take another look at the "cash-flow-engine" that Bill Gates built - and to explain why Microsoft is a "Buy" in today's stock market.
Microsoft is one of the safest investments in the world, but the software giant's stock price has done essentially nothing for the last 10 years. But the company is still a monopoly, has no debt, and continues to generate a torrent of cash.
In fact, Microsoft now has one of the largest cash hordes in the history of capitalism - more than $44 billion, and growing.
So what's different? What's the catalyst that promises to break this giant out of its somnambular state, to make its shares a "Buy?"
The Bright Future for Cloud Computing is Becoming Much Clearer
The cloud computing industry has yet to fully take off, but for an indication of its potential, look at the players getting involved.
Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT), Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ), Oracle Corp. (Nasdaq: ORCL), Google Inc. (Nasdaq: GOOG), and Amazon.com Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN) - the biggest names in the tech sector - are all racing to take the lead in this burgeoning industry.
So what's all of the excitement about?
Buy, Sell or Hold: Despite Challenges, Innovation Will Provide Long-Term Boost to Software Leader Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT)
Thanks to some shrewd maneuvering with its first major software contract in the early 1980s, Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) built itself into a tech giant and software powerhouse. But the global financial crisis and increasing competition are eroding that longstanding dominance.
There's no doubt the company has made successful strategic decisions for decades.
Founder and Chairman William H. Gates III established Microsoft in 1975 and made it the worldwide leader in software products and services, including operating systems for servers, personal computers and intelligent devices, server applications, business solutions applications, software development tools and video games. It offers product support and consulting services on its impressive array of products, including its widely used Windows operating systems and Microsoft Office software suite.