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The tech world had no shortage of storylines this weekend, and tech stocks soared along with the broader market. The information technology sector leapt 3% during the week, good enough to make it the third best-performing sector behind the leading financials industry. Tech stocks have rallied across the first few months of the year, but the overriding storyline has been Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) and its increasing dominance of the tech space.
This week, that storyline didn't change: The world was fixated on the launch of Apple's newest iPad. However, there were some other storylines that tech investors shouldn't ignore.
Tech storyline No. 1: The new iPad
On Friday, the newest iPad hit store shelves, and the mania that's accompanied recent Apple product releases followed. Analyst estimates of a million iPad sales on the launch day could prove light. My checks with an Apple store in suburban Washington, D.C., show that the store received up to 15,000 iPads for the opening weekend. That points to a larger opening than even the most bullish analysts expect.
There's little doubt that the iPad will further continue Apple's dominance of the tablet space over closest rival Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN ) . Instead, a key area of focus across the coming quarters might be how the iPad is able to change the average selling prices (ASP) of the device. In the last quarter, the average iPad sale rang in at $590, indicating that consumers gravitated more toward the lowest-priced (and lowest margin) $499 16 GB Wi-Fi model. However, with more users upgrading from a previous iPad to this model and a general increasing demand for more storage as the iPad cements its status as a media consumption and creation device, I think you could see more users springing for higher-margin 32 GB and 64 GB models.
On top of that, the newest iPad offers LTE service within select regions of the United States, Canada, and Germany. That could spur more adoption of iPads that connect to 3G and 4G data networks, which once again sell at a higher price point and drive iPad margins.
In the end, Apple is most concerned about driving adoption of the iPad and pushing its market share closer to what the iPod enjoyed in MP3 players rather than the iPhone's share of the fragmented smartphone market. Since the iPad is aggressively priced relative to the iPhone, higher selling prices on the new iPad could continue the trend of Apple's swelling margins and counterbalance decreased selling prices for the now-$399-priced iPad 2. iPad margin expansion is definitely a storyline for Apple investors to watch in coming months.
Related Fool article: Should You Buy Apple Before the iPad Goes on Sale?
Tech storyline No. 2: Another dumb Cisco buy?
Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO ) got back in the big acquisition game this Thursday, shelling out $5 billion to purchase NDS, a company with a variety of pay-TV services. The goal for Cisco is to push deeper into the software end of the revolution in how next-generation video is delivered.
I find the deal to be a mistake. Cisco has a lot of cash burning a hole in its pocket that can't be returned to the United States without a huge tax hit. So the draw of making foreign acquisitions without that corresponding tax hit is a large temptation for Cisco CEO John Chambers.
However, Cisco's gotten in trouble before trying to move its focus beyond its core networking technologies. Beyond that, I see the "software layer" of next-generation video delivery moving away from service providers and toward large tech giants. That would be bad news for Cisco, since it's placing a huge bet on its own collaboration with service providers, e.g., companies such as Comcast and AT&T.
My money is -- literally -- on Apple to eventually strike the right deals and create its own interface for next-generation television, but Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) and even Intel are also circling the waters. In any case, a $5 billion bet with this level of risk that the industry will shift away from Cisco's plans is ill-advised. It's double ill-advised when you consider that Chambers and company are making the same kind of costly acquisitions filled with distractions that doomed the company to a long malaise across the past half-decade.
Related Fool article: Another Dumb Cisco Buy
Tech storyline No. 3: Seriously, Samsung's not buying RIM!
Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM ) was on the rise on Friday, closing the day up 6.9%. The culprit apparently was once again chatter that Samsung was looking to invest in the company. There's long been chatter that Samsung would buy RIM, but the talk Friday was that Samsung would make a smaller investment in RIM and develop phones on RIM's BB10 operating system.
Here's the problem as I see it: It's conceivable that Samsung would develop some small number of phones with the BlackBerry OS if RIM opened up the operating system. It's well known that Samsung is insecure over Google's purchase of Motorola Mobility and fears that the acquisition could cause Google to favor phones from its own captive mobile unit. Throw in the fact that Samsung has begun controlling a majority of the Android market, and Google likewise could be leery of having one handset vendor with such a dominant position in its OS.
However, instead of abandoning Android in favor of an unproven OS like BB10, if Samsung was looking to decrease its reliance on Google, its path to self-determination of an operating system is best served by Amazon's actions. Amazon heavily "forked" Android on its Kindle Fire, which means it no longer has access to key features like Maps and Google's native email client, but it also means that Amazon now controls the operating system on its tablets and isn't reliant on Google. To me, that could prove to be the more effective path if Samsung decides a divorce from Google is necessary.
Related Fool article: Can Apple, Samsung, and Amazon Make Google Irrelevant in Mobile?
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