Winners and Losers: Apple and Detroit Are Up, Facebook and Finns Are Down
Apple (AAPL) -- Winner
It's time to get excited about Apple again. The consumer tech giant confirmed that it will be hosting a media event on Tuesday.
There's plenty of speculation on what the iEverything company will be unveiling. It's widely believed that Apple will not only unveil the updated iPhone 5S, but also a cheaper iPhone 5C that it can market to prepaid carriers in this country and the vast majority of wireless companies overseas that don't subsidize the cost of iPhones.
Apple's market share in smartphones has fallen from 17 percent to 13 percent over the past year according to industry watcher IDC. It needs a hit next week. It also wouldn't hurt if the Cupertino bellwether surprised the market with a few unexpected products and features.
Microsoft (MSFT) -- Loser
The software giant's move to buy Nokia's (NOK) handset business in a deal valued at roughly $7.2 billion was good news for Nokia's beleaguered shareholders, but Microsoft investors weren't impressed. Nokia's Lumia has been the best ambassador for Microsoft's Windows Phone mobile operating system. But acquiring the Finnish company's devices and services business may prove problematic.
There weren't too many companies backing Microsoft's fledgling platform, but buying Nokia will scare away HTC, Samsung, and others that have been showing Windows Phone some support in the past. The success of Windows as a mobile platform now rests entirely on Nokia's shoulders. Microsoft's making a pretty big bet here.
Detroit -- Winner
The City of Detroit became a punch line again when it filed for bankruptcy this summer, but let's give it up for the resilient nature of the American auto industry.
Automakers reported their sales for the month of August this week, and all of the major players came through with encouraging double-digit percentage gains.
The improving economy and an uptick in employment levels are helping. It also doesn't hurt that the average car on the road is 11 years old. That's a lot of pent-up demand for new rides. Let's also not forget to credit the recent spike in oil prices. As gasoline gets more expensive, drivers are drawn to newer, more fuel-efficient cars.
Facebook (FB) -- Loser
Shares of the leading social network operator may have hit fresh 52-week highs this week, but some critics argue that the company's behavior is hitting new lows.
Privacy groups are asking regulators to delve into the proposed policy changes at Facebook that will allow the site to use names and images of its more than a billion users in marketing initiatives. "This means, for example, that you permit a business or other entity to pay us to display your name and/or profile picture with your content or information, without any compensation to you," it reads.
Facebook apologists will argue that the site's entitled to make money off the website that it's making available for free. But Facebook can't afford to have users turn hostile. Even if the privacy groups are painting an unlikely portrait of what Facebook will do, there's a reputation that needs to be defended here.
Smartwatches -- Winner
Wearable computing has been an industry buzzword since last year, and a key component has been the speculation that smartwatches -- wrist-hugging devices that interact with smartphones and tablets to provide interactive information -- will be insanely popular.
Tech giants have been slow to hit the market with their devices since the Kickstarter-funded Pebble came out. But things picked up this week when Samsung and Qualcomm (QCOM) introduced their smartwatches.
They're not cheap; either one will set you back around $300 this holiday season. However, people were initially turned off by the high prices of smartphones and tablets, too, and eventually, consumers came around. They'll probably warm up to wearable devices as they garner more attention.
Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz owns shares of Qualcomm. The Motley Fool recommends Apple and Facebook. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Facebook, Microsoft and Qualcomm.