Stocks: Pandora Streams On; Nvidia Puts Launch on Hold

Pandora music
Getty Images
Companies can make brilliant moves, but there are also times when things don't work out quite as planned. From a gaming device that got delayed to a software update that adds credibility to a high-tech field, here's a rundown of the week's smartest moves and biggest blunders in the business world.

Pandora Media (P) -- Winner

The leading music streaming service continues to call "Shotgun!"

Pandora announced some important milestones as it tries to make its service the platform of choice for smartphone-strapped drivers.

Pandora has now received 2.5 million activations exclusively through its partnerships with 23 different automaker brands covering more than 100 different models.

The dot-com darling expects a third of all cars sold in this country this year to have Pandora preinstalled, giving drivers seamless access to the service through dashboard entertainment systems.

Streaming radio has come a long way.

Nvidia (NVDA) -- Blunder

The leader in graphics chips was supposed to wow gamers with Nvidia Shield this week. The handheld device with its 5-inch high-def screen and physical controller was going to be the head-turning gadget that put Android-based gaming on the map.

Well, on Wednesday -- just a day before it was set to hit stores -- Nvidia announced that it would be delaying the launch until July. A third-party component wasn't up to snuff, forcing Nvidia to call off its big bet on mobile gaming before it even had a chance to start.

Nvidia cut the price of the handheld gaming system last week to $299 from $349, so there were already questions about customer demand. Now we have a quality control issue that let this buggy component go through unnoticed until just before its retail launch.

"Nvidia" resembles the Spanish word for "envy," but no one is feeling envious of the chip giant's position this week.

3-D Printing -- Winner

There have been few tech innovations in recent years as intriguing as 3-D printing. Investors have rallied around the few publicly traded companies associated with the booming niche, making 3D Systems (DDD) and Stratasys (SSYS) two of last year's biggest gainers.

The ability to print physical objects -- from dental implants to that Lego piece your nephew misplaced -- is pretty compelling.

Despite the buzz, 3-D printing hasn't gone mainstream. That may be changing now that Microsoft (MSFT) revealed this week that its latest Windows 8.1 update will offer native 3-D printing support. It's the first operating system to do that, opening the door for wider acceptance at a time when 3-D printers are starting to be sold at office supply superstores.

Paychex (PAYX) -- Blunder

One of the economy's best bellwethers is Paychex, and this week the payroll processing giant painted an iffy portrait of corporate America.

Paychex's revenue did climb 6% higher, but analysts were holding out for a little more. Wall Street was forecasting a profit of 37 cents a share, but the human resources giant only came through with net income of 34 cents a share.

Paychex is a great gauge for the state of the economy. If companies are hiring, the additional paychecks will show up in Paychex's revenue. Business is improving at the company, but not fast enough.

Netflix (NFLX) and (AMZN) -- Winners

The streaming-video-smorgasbord market is shaping up into a two-company race. Netflix and Amazon issued dueling press releases this week, touting new children-friendly shows that they will be adding to their digital catalogs.

There doesn't have to be just one winner. Monthly subscriptions to both services add up to less than a basic subscription to HBO or Showtime. As Netflix and Amazon continue to flesh out their vaults with content that isn't available on the other leading platform, it will make it that much more compelling for TV buffs to join both services.

Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz owns shares of Netflix. The Motley Fool recommends 3D Systems,, Netflix, NVIDIA, Pandora Media, Paychex and Stratasys. The Motley Fool owns shares of 3D Systems,, Microsoft, Netflix and Stratasys and has the following options: Short Jan 2014 $36 Calls on 3D Systems and Short Jan 2014 $20 Puts on 3D Systems.

Fitness gadgets: Cheaper than a personal trainer
See Gallery
Stocks: Pandora Streams On; Nvidia Puts Launch on Hold

What it tracks. Steps, distance covered, and calories burned

 How it motivates. See your stats on this pedometer's easy-to-read display. The device holds two weeks of data and needs to be charged only every four to six months.

The Fitbug comes with one free month of online coaching; sync the device with newer iPhones and iPads to get personalized exercise and nutrition tips. If you like this optional service, you can continue it for $3.99 a month.

 Cost: $29.99

What it tracks. Steps, flights of stairs climbed, calories burned, and sleep cycles

How it motivates. Unlike a pedometer, this gadget senses altitude, so you'll get credit for climbing stairs. You can also use the device to monitor your sleep and find patterns that show when you're getting the best shuteye.

Sync it to a PC or smartphone to see your data, and go online to use Fitbit's free food-tracking tools.

Not a fan of clip-ons? The company plans to launch a bracelet version soon.

 Cost: $99.95
What it tracks. Route, pace, distance covered, and calories burned

How it motivates. Download this iPhone or Android app to select from 14 runners' training plans or select a preset workout and track your run, hike, bike ride, or swim.

Set a goal, such as completing a cycling race, and RunKeeper will help you set up a training schedule, send workout reminders, and even give you pace and distance updates through your earphones.

 Cost: Free
What it tracks. Running speed, distance covered, and calories burned

How it motivates. This light and thin GPS watch alerts you at the end of each mile or when you hit a personal best, without the need to stop and fumble with a phone.

Use the Garmin to build a custom run by, say, adding walking breaks, and compare your pace to the target you set. Plug it into a computer for a map of your run.

 Cost: $129.99
Read Full Story