A prominent tech columnist, Walt Mossberg, recently wrote his last article for The Wall Street Journal and published his list of the 12 most influential products released over the last 20 years.
The products are:
1993: Newton MessagePad
1994: Netscape Navigator
1995: Windows 95
1997: Palm Pilot
1998: Google Search
2008: Macbook Air
Apple dominates with five products. Fellow tech brethren Google and Microsoft also show up.
Investors who were smart enough to recognize the innovative nature of these products have profited immensely. It might not be too late to get on the bandwagon.
Window into the past
Windows 95 was a windfall for Microsoft. After its release in the summer of 1995, the program sold 40 million copies over the next 12 months. Microsoft greatly improved upon previous operating systems. The graphical user interface and 32-bit architecture were a leap above everything else.
Although not a key part of its business now, Microsoft is still developing operating systems. However, the latest, Windows 8, hasn't garnered rave reviews. Microsoft benefits more from its line-up of productivity software. Sales of Word, Excel, and Outlook won't be effected by the recent decline in PC shipments, either.
Although it may be slow getting to the party, Microsoft is in the process of acquiring Nokia's wireless operations. One estimate indicates revenue could grow by 20% as the result. That would be impressive if it pans out, and investors may want to stay abreast of the situation.
Searching for profit
Combining superior technology and profittable monetization, Google Search has been responsible for much of the company's success. Although Android dominates the smartphone market, Google receives little profit from the sales of devices that run on it. The company provides the open-source software free to manufacturers.
Google has recognized that search would plateau and is diversifying into wearable technology, Wi-Fi-enabled blimps, fiber optic networks, and driverless cars. Google now sells smartphones and tablets, too.
The stock probably still has room to run, based on potential growth from the latest innovations, one or more of which could show up on a future list. Investors should consider this.
Although a commercial failure, Mossberg felt that Apple's Newton MessagePad was ahead of its time and set the stage for today's wireless revolution. However, the iPod, iPhone, and iPad have sold like hotcakes, resulting in significant cash flow and happy investors.
Apple is not done, either. All major products have been continually updated and upgraded. Changes include the first 64-bit mobile processor, improved battery capacity, and one-touch access for the iPhone.
Although torrid growth is most likely a thing of the past, Apple is probably still a good investment. It doesn't hurt, either, that the company pays a dividend of $12 per year and intends to buy back more of its own shares.
Two-thirds of the most influential tech products since 1993 have come from just three companies: Microsoft, Google, and Apple. Google and Apple are still innovating, and will probably remain a powerful influence on the industry. However, it remains to be seen if Microsoft will relive the glory days of Windows 95.
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