Mobile Wars: Watch Out for This Product

Mobile Wars: Watch Out for This Product

Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over daily movements, we do like to keep an eye on market changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.

Some good economic data was released this morning, and a congressional vote to authorize a military strike on Syria won't come until next week, which would seem reason enough to push U.S. stocks higher this morning. The S&P 500 and the narrower, price-weighted Dow Jones Industrial Average up 0.28% and 0.26%, respectively, at 10:10 a.m. EDT.

What's the good news I referred to above? The Department of Labor reported that the number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits last week fell almost to a five-year low, putting the trailing four-week average at its lowest level since October 2007 -- the same month in which the stock market peaked and two months prior to the start of the Great Recession.

However, that's not the indication of economic recovery investors are pondering this morning. Yesterday, auto sales figures for August showed that Americans bought vehicles at an annualized rate of 16.1 million automobiles, besting the 16 million figure set in December 2007. The momentum in economic data has been strong recently, and this has done much to offset the concern that the Fed may begin scaling back its monthly bond purchases this month.

Heads-up, Samsun competitors!
Yesterday, when I wrote that "this week may prove to be a critical juncture in the 'mobile wars,'" I was referring to Microsoft's $7 billion acquisition of Nokia's handset business and the news that BlackBerry is running an accelerated auction that could see the company sold by November.

As this week rolls on, so too does the combat, with Samsung Electronics now getting a head start on rivals Microsoft, Google and Apple in a new front of this war: Wearable technology, or "smartwatches." Samsung launched its Galaxy Gear smartwatch, which acts as a companion to the Samsung smartphone, on Wednesday. It goes on sale this month in 149 countries at a price of $299.

The Galaxy Gear enables users to receive text messages, check their emails, listen to music, and take pictures. Color me skeptical, but it's not clear to me that people are desperate to wear something on their wrist that does more or less the same thing as the device they carry around in their pocket, purse or, quite often, the palm of their hand. Indeed, this is the reason some people have stopped wearing a "dumb" wristwatch altogether.

Still, given the level and the nature of the competition and the potential riches awaiting the winners of the mobile wars, I can't fault Samsung for being first-mover in this market. For one thing, it's difficult to predict how consumers will take to this product category; for another, Samsung's nearest rival, Apple, is preparing to launch its iWatch next year, while Google acquired a smartwatch start-up, Wimm Labs, last year.

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Fool contributor Alex Dumortier, CFA has no position in any stocks mentioned; you can follow him on LinkedIn. The Motley Fool recommends Apple. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple and Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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