Jewish World Review Nov. 15, 2001 / 29 Mar-Cheshvan, 5762
James K. Glassman
The "Next Big Thing" in Technology?
YOU may know Jim Jubak from
his frequent appearances on
CNBC. Jubak, the senior
markets editor at MSN Money,
holds a core investing
principle: the conventional
wisdom is always wrong.
Suffice it to say that this guy
has an independent streak,
which is a great virtue for the long-term investor. And while I
don't believe that the conventional wisdom is always wrong, I
do think that Jubak may have spotted an emerging trend.
The folks in Silicon Valley are always looking for the "next big
thing" that will drive growth across the entire technology
industry. The advent of the PC was a big thing. So was the
Internet. Ditto wireless communication. Jubak believes that
the next big thing will involve display technology - innovations
in the way that we view words, photographs, graphics, and
moving images. If he's correct, revolutionary improvements in
this area could drive growth in software as well as hardware,
networks along with personal devices.
Jubak points out that while we've seen tremendous innovation
in just about every area of digital technology, there's a
glaring exception. "The old bulky cathode ray tube that is
probably at the heart of the computer monitor that sits on
your desk is a relic from the invention of the television more
than 70 years ago. Only in the last year have monitors based
on other technologies started to show up in appreciable
numbers on desktops," he says.
In Jubak's view, a quantum leap in the way we display images
could involve not just better PC monitors but widespread
digital cameras and VCRs, digital projection of movies, better
graphics chips for video games, better printing technology, as
well as hardware and software used to create, manipulate
and store images. Therefore, he's picked six companies that
stand to benefit from the "display" era. Two of the six are
firms that I've complimented before. Adobe (ticker symbol:
ADBE) makes the popular Acrobat software for displaying
printed documents in digital form, as well as Photoshop, used
by professionals and amateurs alike in creating and
manipulating pictures and graphics. He also likes Nvidia
(NVDA), the fast-growing maker of graphics chips. Jubak is
sweet on Electronics for Imaging (EFII), ARM Holdings
(ARMHY), Genesis Microchip (GNSS) and Gemstar-TV Guide
International (GMST), because of its lock on on-screen
programming guides and evolving VCR and TV applications.
Arik Hesseldahl of Forbes.com is also impressed with Genesis
Microchip's technology and hyper revenue growth. And
Hesseldahl has spotted a few more up-and-comers that could
make the LCD display on your laptop look like Stone Age
technology. Kopin (KOPN) and eMagin (EMA) are young
companies that have recently signed up a number of
customers in the Department of Defense. In fact, eMagin will
be creating the display technology for a new helmet that Air
Force F-15 pilots will begin wearing in 2003.
Both eMagin and another firm called Universal Display (PANL)
use a technology called organic light-emitting diodes (OLED)
and this stuff (to use the Silicon Valley vernacular) could get
really cool in a hurry. Hesseldahl reports that Universal Display
is working on transparent display devices that could be rolled
up like a window shade when not in use or allow for
crystal-clear images to be projected on to your car windshield
or eyeglasses. The caveat here is that KOPN, EMA, and PANL
are all small, money losing companies and that each carries a
substantial amount of risk.
Those investors looking for a larger, more established firm to
play in the display era might also consider Motorola (MOT),
which is developing new carbon-based display screens that
promise to be ultra-thin, ultra-light and require very little
And then of course there's Microsoft (MSFT). Chairman Bill
Gates has devoted substantial research to creating a light,
convenient electronic tablet that's as easy and as pleasant to
read as a newspaper. And who wouldn't want
JWR contributor James K. Glassman is the host of Tech Central Station. Comment by clicking here.
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