In the competitive spirit of college basketball's annual championship tournament, The Motley Fool brings you Stock Madness 2007! Our writers are making head-to-head arguments for their chosen stocks (but not necessarily investment recommendations -- this is, after all, a game), and you'll pick the winners with your article recommendations and Motley Fool CAPS ratings. Who will win the right to cut down the net? Let's tip things off and find out!
Why do people love March Madness? In large part, they love the underdog. They thrill to those occasions when a No. 11 seed whacks a No. 6 seed from a power conference -- as Virginia Commonwealth did, delivering a dagger to Duke's heart in the first round of this year's tournament.
The sad reality is that glorious underdog runs such as George Mason University's in 2006 are the exception, not the rule. They are etched in our memory only because they are so rare. More typically, the top seeds advance into the latter rounds.
In this same sense, today's match-up between Intel (Nasdaq: INTC ) and Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) is not unexpected. They both defeated some talented companies along the way, including eBay (Nasdaq: EBAY ) and Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) ; but really, both of these companies expected to be here.
Of the two, I'll even admit that Apple, given its phenomenal success over the past couple of years, is the No. 1 seed in this matchup. But at this point of the tournament, it doesn't matter -- the past is prelude. Just look at who's still standing in the NCAA tournament -- two No. 1 seeds and two No. 2 seeds.
At this stage, it's just as likely for a No. 2 to beat a No. 1 seed as vice versa. Intel defeating Apple will be the equivalent of Georgetown taking down UNC. And that's exactly what I expect to happen.
Intel is ready to go nano-a-nano against Apple. Sure, the iPod nano has become an iconic product, and its success has helped fuel part of the company's recent growth. But in spite of its name, there's little actual nanotechnology in it.
Intel, on the other hand, is engaged in real nanotechnology. Its nano isn't about glitz or marketing, but future growth. The company is already working with Micron Technology (NYSE: MU ) and Nanosys -- a private nanotech company whose investors include Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendation Harris & Harris (Nasdaq: TINY ) is -- on developing next-generation NAND flash memory to compete with Samsung and Toshiba. It's also experimenting with how quantum dots, nanowires, and carbon nanotubes might be able to imbue future technologies with amazing new features and characteristics.
But Intel's bag of nano tricks doesn't stop there. The company is working on silicon photonics to develop new chips that will do everything from process powerful video graphics on cellphones to seamlessly transfer obscene amounts of digital data between mobile devices.
What does this mean? In the near future, Intel's technology could lead to the creation of some cool new products and that might make wearing an iPod look as tragically unhip as the tight, silk basketball shorts of yesteryear.
Intel's a better second-hafnium team
Of course, it's entirely possible that Apple will continue to develop the most highly coveted products of the future. But it pretty much has to, in order to justify its current price. With a P/E ratio of 33, compared to Intel's 22, investors must ask themselves whether Apple will suffer a second-half fade -- much like Tennessee did against Ohio State on Thursday night, after it was up by 20 points.
To large extent, investors are counting on Apple's iPhone to carry the stock to success during the second half of the year. Like living by the three-pointer, it is a risky proposition. How many people will really want to spend $600 and switch providers to get a new phone?
Early adopters and hipsters will undoubtedly take the plunge, but what about everybody else? Just look at how long the success of Motorola's (NYSE: MOT ) RAZR carried that stock. In today's hypercompetitive environment, the latest and coolest technology has a dangerously short shelf life.
The iPhone's novelty is unlikely to last long, because in January, Intel announced that it had developed a new material -- hafnium -- to allow new computer chips to perform faster and reduce power consumption. The advance will not only position Intel to better compete with the likes of Advanced Micro Devices and IBM, but also help other electronic devices compete with the iPhone.
Supplying the electronic components that go inside the sleek, sexy devices of tomorrow is not nearly as gratifying as designing, marketing, and selling those products -- but it's a lot more stable.
I predict that Intel will continue to pound away with inside components, while Apple launches the equivalent of long-distance three-pointers. While Apple has demonstrated extraordinary accuracy, even hot hands hit a cold spell on occasion.
If you expect Intel's strength to wear down Apple in the second half, register your opinion on CAPS with an "outperform" rating for the chipmaker. We'll tally your votes later in the week to decide which tech titan moves closer to the big dance.
Think you could pitch your favorite stock -- or ditch your least favorite -- in 27 seconds or less? That's what we're doing over at Motley Fool CAPS. Check out our new stock videos.
Fool contributor Jack Uldrich refuses to say who he is picking to win the NCAA tournament, because all of previously mentioned picks have lost. He does, however, own stock in Intel, and he does not expect the company to lose its investors any money. eBay is a Stock Advisor pick. Harris & Harris is a Rule Breakers selection. Intel is an Inside Value choice. The Fool has a strict disclosure policy.