There's never a dull moment on Wall Street. Let's go over some of the items that will help shape the week that lies ahead.
1. Microsoft Gets Into the Tablet Game
When Microsoft (MSFT) sent out media invites last week for an event taking place in Los Angeles on Monday, it didn't take long for financial journalists and tech watchers to realize that the world's largest software company would be showing off tablets.
Consumers don't think about Microsoft when they're talking tablets. The iPad and Android-fueled devices own this space.
However, Microsoft has made it a point to roll out its new Windows 8 operating system with touchscreen devices firmly in mind. Why not tablets? Whether it's Microsoft-branded gadgets or simply third-party makers using Windows 8, this could be the company's best shot at closing the gap in "good enough" computing that has been eating into traditional PC and laptop sales.
Most buyers of tablets are using them to surf the Web, stream video, and fire up apps, but a Windows-based tablet would also make it easier to play nice with Microsoft Office and other PC-centric applications.
2. Cool Electric Car Alert!
The moment of truth for electric cars is coming. Deliveries of Tesla Motors' (TSLA) Model S begin on Friday. Unlike Tesla's original Roadster, the new all-electric sedan starts at a more manageable $49,900.
There's been plenty of controversy behind electric cars. They're not cheap, as the heavy batteries cost thousands of dollars alone. However, electric charges provide cleaner and cheaper means of getting around.
Gas prices have been dropping in recent months, making this perhaps poor timing for the Model S debut. Then again, thousands of people have already reserved their Model S cars. It's now a matter of getting on a waiting list to get one at some point next year.
Seeing Model S cars on the road will be the best form of advertising that Tesla -- and emission-free plug-in electric vehicles in general -- can get.
3. Is a Full-Priced iPhone Actually a Dud or Deal?
One of the things holding back potential iPhone buyers is that the device is just too expensive through the major carriers.
Costly monthly data plans and folks that just don't want to tie themselves down to a two-year contract with any carrier may be limiting the appeal of smartphones, but now the pre-paid wireless companies are diving into the ring.
Cricket -- Leap Wireless' (LEAP) pre-paid mobile brand -- will start offering the iPhone on Friday. The monthly plan that will set Cricket iPhone buyers back $55 a month for unlimited talk, text, and data is a bargain when pitted against the major carriers. Unfortunately, the problem with the freedom of month-by-month connectivity without any long-term contract obligations is that buyers have to pay the full retail price of the iPhone. In other words, they have to pay hundreds more upfront for the iPhone than they would through the larger carriers that subsidize the handsets.
4. Books, Nooks and Cliffhangers
It isn't easy being a bean counter at Barnes & Noble (BKS). The bookseller may have one less rival to worry about after Borders closed its leafy superstores for good last summer, but it's still struggling to turn a profit outside of the seasonally potent holiday quarter.
Analysts see Barnes & Noble posting a deficit of 93 cents a share when it reports on Tuesday. Consumers buying fewer physical books is part of the problem, but the more material financial drain is that the company is taking a hit by selling its Nooks so cheaply.
It doesn't have much of a choice if it wants to compete against the equally cheap Kindles.
Barnes & Noble did settle a lawsuit concerning a college bookstores transaction last week, so that will be one less chapter for the company to worry about heading into the report. How long it will be before its Nook business can be profitable -- or how things are going on its plans to split its business in two -- will be hot topics during the call.
5. Bed Bath & Way Beyond
One of the household names reporting results this week just happens to be a leader in household items.
Bed Bath & Beyond (BBBY) checks in on Wednesday. There are no deficit-saddling Nooks here. The pros see the retailer earning 84 cents a share in its latest quarter, just ahead of the 72 cents a share it mustered a year earlier.
Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz does not owns shares in any of the stocks in this article. The Motley Fool owns shares of Microsoft and Tesla Motors. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Bed Bath & Beyond, Microsoft, and Tesla Motors. Motley Fool newsletter services have also recommended creating a bull call spread position in Microsoft and writing puts on Barnes & Noble.
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