By the end of last week's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, I had a budding sore throat and a bad case of tech overload.
But I don't regret the trip. My Motley Fool Rule Breakers teammate Karl Thiel and I got a glimpse of the near future. We didn't just see tablets and 3-D. We saw fear, loathing, and fast chips. We saw an all-out an Android assault. And we saw a lot of the companies we cover for Rule Breakers and Motley Fool Stock Advisor.
Four from the floor
I'll grant that picking just four companies to buy out of the hundreds in attendance at CES is a little presumptuous. So be it. When covering a mile of packed convention center space means picking an elbow fight with 100,000 other geeks, you learn to make choices. These four picks are based on what I actually saw:
1. Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) . Never has a company been granted so much in the way of free marketing dollars. Most of the new portable gadgetry we saw featured the Android operating system, and no less than four companies demonstrated their own take on Google TV, including Sony, Logitech (Nasdaq: LOGI ) , and DISH Network (Nasdaq: DISH ) . Mix in a striking demo of the forthcoming "Honeycomb" tablet operating system on Motorola's XOOM during the Verizon keynote, and you've got the makings of a catalyst that could greatly expand Big G's already sizeable digital footprint.
2. Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) . Shocked by this pick? Me too. I had low expectations for Mr. Softy going into CES, but CEO Steve Ballmer made a compelling case for his company during the show's opening keynote. Don't get me wrong; I see no reason for Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) to fear what's coming from Redmond. But if you already like Microsoft's price, the possibility of Kinect-fueled Xbox profits, and a better Windows phone eating the BlackBerry's market share, you'll find this stock appealing.
3. NVIDIA (Nasdaq: NVDA ) . Karl and I spent an hour and a half with this graphics chipmaker on a Saturday that saw a constant stream of gaming enthusiasts visit its booth to try a large-screen 3-D shooter rendered by its processors. Call it a subjective pick if you like, but NVIDIA provided a rare bit of good 3-D tech at a show where most only talked a good 3-D game. (Pun intended.) What's more, the company showed an operating model of Motorola's forthcoming Atrix 4G smartphone rendering high-definition video. Inside were NVIDIA's Tegra chip paired with an ARM-based dual-core processor. Call it the first of what looks to be many mobile design wins for the company.
4. Rosetta Stone (NYSE: RST ) . Another pleasant surprise for me. I didn't even plan on making this meeting. Having seen the TOTALe language immersion features in action, I'm glad I did. What I liked most was the possibility of Rosetta Stone earning recurring revenue from community support and live teaching sessions. Both are layered on top of the core software as add-ons and are available online. I'll have more on how the TOTALe system works if Rosetta Stone's marketing team makes good on a CES promise to provide Karl and I with demo copies.
The Foolish bottom line
Just because I've narrowed my picks to four stocks, don't presume these are the only companies that captured my interest. Tesla's roadster looked stunning. Samsung's Android-powered gear was as good as anything we saw on the show floor. BYD showed a prototype 10-inch Windows 7 tablet. I expect to keep a close eye on these and more stocks I saw at CES in our Rule Breakers service.
Meanwhile, Google, Microsoft, NVIDIA, and Rosetta Stone are my picks for CES because they showed tech that's either already here or about to arrive. We can see the catalysts, and with each company, they appear ready to drive earnings and revenue growth. Like fruit on a vine, they're opportunities ripe for the picking.
Do you agree? Disagree? Use the comments box below to let us know what you think about last week's CES announcements, and what your stock picks would be.
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