Thursday, January 31, 2008

Timing Motorola's Turnaround

As usual, the key questions for Motorola all center on their handset division. The utterly dismal post-RAZR performance has even brought speculation that Motorola would eventually sell the handset division. I see that as a woefully short sighted type of, of course, I cant discount the possibilty that Motorola's management will go down that path.

However, as an investor I see an opportunity. Motorola still has the brand, distribution and manufacturing prowess to be competitive in handsets. The problem is one of design. They dont need a RAZR, but they do need something along the lines of the Triplet handsets (V300/V500/V800) which spurred the turn around after the Startec had faded. The current buzz has centered around the following leaked pictures which are supposed to represent a portion of Motorola's 2008 lineup.

Unfortunately, this picture first showed up last October and there has been no further word on the possible timing of the introduction of these handsets. However, I believe that Eastman Kodak shed some light on the schedule during their earnings call, saying that they expect their CMOS image sensors to be in commercial products within six months. If confirmed, this timetable would put to rest some of the worst concerns about Motorola's fall handset lineup. It could be the light at the end of the long post-RAZR tunnel that investors have been looking for....stay tuned to 3GSM for more rumors and even the possibility of an announcement.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

What's next for Apple?

So for the first time in recent memory, Steve Jobs's RDF failed to take hold at MacWorld. While the MacBook Air looks like a beautiful notebook, it is also a niche product. The compromises that Apple was forced to take to get the product down to its desired thinness insured that the vast majority of people will love to look, but decline to purchase. So the question is, what's next for Apple? The stock price is down 35% from its recent high and questions are now being raised about the sell-through of the iPhone.

Luckily, the future isn't lost, and absent a prolonged recession, I think Apple's near-term pipeline is going to serve it well in the 2nd half of the year. The first two products are relative no-brainers, and the only question is timing. The 3G iPhone has already been confirmed for '08, and a summer launch would do wonders for European/Asian adoption. I also think that the MacBook Air has given us a clear view of the coming MacBook and MacBook Pro revamps. We will see an emphasis on new thin style but without the feature compromises made in the Air. The most interesting new feature will be the larger multitouch trackpad. If Apple can create a compelling new user experience, as they have done with the iPhone, they could accelerate their current marketshare gains.

More interesting than both of the above products is going to be the evolution of the iPod Touch. When announced, it looked like just a derivative of the existing iPhone. However, during the last conference call, Apple gave some broad hints that they see the iPod Touch differently. Calling it a "the first mainstream WiFi mobile platform", Apple is giving clear indications that they see this as a stand-alone product. Future revisions will no longer concentrate on figuring out new ways to present music/videos, but rather on taking advantage of the computing power and internet access that is now possible in a mobile package.

Could this be the long-awaited Apple tablet? Not quite, I anticipate more of a MID that will take full advantage of the flexibility offered by the touchscreen OS in the Touch/iPhone. This is Apple's key advantage over all of its competitors. While iPhone imitators galore are coming to market, I have yet to see or hear of one that comes anywhere near the ease of use or smooth feel of Apple's OS. This is going to serve them well as they expand the Touch into a powerful new mobile computing platform. While there have been some rumors along these lines, I don't think that the Street has discounted even a portion of this new revenue stream. I expect an Apple announcement sometime in the summer/early fall timeframe.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Yet another blog

So the inevitable question is, why? There are already a huge number of blogs out there, why add another voice to the wilderness? Well, after almost a decade of participating in internet investing message boards (which I will continue to do), I decided to try my hand at a new medium. Blogging provides a different platform and different audience than the message boards and hopefully will provide new ideas as well. In general, my focus in investing has been in the wireless sector, though anything in tech has been fair game. I see a ton of opportunities over the next few years as devices come to market that bring about the long awaited convergence of handsets, PMP's, internet appliances, cameras, and more. The iPhone is obviously a large milestone in this trend and I imagine that I will be discussing both the short and long-term impact of Apple's entry into the handset market. I also see the efforts to bring aspects of the PC/internet into the living room as creating a plethora of different winners in the hardware, software and content spaces.

Of course, as with any blog, we'll just have to see where this goes....