5 Dates to Circle in April

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April is here, and this year's strong first quarter is going to be a hard act to follow. Let's go over a few of the upcoming days to watch.

April 8
's (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) best shot at relevance in the booming smartphone space begins next Sunday, when the Lumia 900 hits the market.

Working with the world's largest handset manufacturer and the country's second largest wireless carrier, Microsoft is already investing billions to make sure that its Windows Phone mobile operating system is available and accessible. Unlike many flagship phones, the Lumia 900 is a features-rich device that will sell for less than $100 with a two-year contract.

Will giving smartphone buyers more bang for their buck and a critically acclaimed interface be enough? Android has become the world's smartphone platform of choice, and its open-source approach has made it easy for handset makers to offer high-tech gadgets at reasonable price points. The iPhone appeal is also unquestioned, and both Android and iOS have developers populating their formats with sticky apps that are free or nearly free.

If Lumia 900 isn't a hit, Microsoft may not have too many chances left before Android and iOS run away with the market.

April 16
Google Drive will be the next cloud-based initiative of the world's leading search engine, and unconfirmed sources claim that Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) will launch its digital-storage platform in two weeks.

Google Drive will offer users seamless access to 5 gigabytes of online storage capacity for free, according to a screenshot being passed around in tech blogging circles.

Big G isn't a pioneer here. Dropbox is very popular, and you have Box and Microsoft's own SkyDrive jockeying for position. However, Google's dot-com dominance will make Google Drive stand out.

April 17
Is it better to be a Muppet or Muppet master? Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS  ) reports in two weeks, along with most of its investment banking peers, but the market will naturally want to hear Goldman defend itself against accusations made when the now former executive director Greg Smith resigned in bridge-burning op-ed fashion.

He went on to write that many of his cronies at Goldman Sachs refer to clients as Muppets and that many investment bankers aren't working in the best interest of their clients at the firm.

Speak up, Goldman. Statler and Waldorf can't hear you.

April 23
Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX  ) has yet to announce when it will report its first-quarter financials, but the company has historically stepped up just after the third week of April.

There's plenty riding on Netflix's upcoming report. After shocking investors with huge subscriber losses during the third quarter, Netflix bounced back with overall subscriber growth for the holiday quarter.

DVD-based membership numbers will continue to decline, but Netflix has been able to more than offset those defections with the growing popularity of its $7.99-a-month streaming service. Netflix had better hope that it can keep that coming. A lot of the pessimism has been priced out of the stock. Yes, the shares took a beating last year, but the stock is trading 84% higher since bottoming out in November.

April 25
(Nasdaq: AKAM  ) will be one of the more interesting names to watch this earnings season. As the country's leading content-delivery network, Akamai helps websites accelerate the loading of pages and the secure delivery of digital files.

We live in the era of streaming content. Media companies are serving up chunky video files through the Internet, and that now includes even traditional cable operators and premium movie channels. Every subscriber-based platform wants to serve up content on a growing number of devices, and that's great news for Akamai.

The downside has been the cutthroat nature of this niche. Analysts expect flat earnings growth at Akamai when it offers up its quarterly results later this month. However, Akamai's been making some interesting acquisitions along the way that should help on that front.

Give me more
If you like to stay on top of what happens next -- and I'm guessing you do, because you're reading this article -- how about checking out The Motley Fool's top stock for 2012? It's a free report, but only for a limited time, so check it out now.

The Motley Fool owns shares of Microsoft and Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Goldman Sachs, Apple, Microsoft, and Netflix and creating bull call spread positions in Microsoft and Apple. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz calls them as he sees them. He owns shares of Netflix and is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.

Read/Post Comments (3) | Recommend This Article (3)

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  • Report this Comment On April 01, 2012, at 4:48 PM, AngelTread wrote:

    I agree that Microsoft's future in mobile is resting on the Nokia Lumia 900 handset.

    It's their flagship model. It's got Microsoft subsidizing the retail price. It's got one of the biggest advertising budgets of any product, with AT&T pushing it above all other handsets in its range.

    If the Lumia 900 fails (like all Microsoft's previous mobile efforts have), then it will confirm that the Windows Phone platform is simply unmarketable.

    If the Lumia 900 fails, I expect pressure to mount for CEO Ballmer to be ousted.

  • Report this Comment On April 02, 2012, at 4:35 AM, funspirit wrote:

    As for Netflix, they are facing serious competitive pressures. Column here about that--

    I myself joined over the holiday season, then cancelled as I had technical difficulties with the service.

  • Report this Comment On April 02, 2012, at 11:39 AM, Borbality wrote:

    Interesting about Google, considering gmail already gives about 10GB, you can pretty much upload anything you want on google docs and google music gives you i think 20GB of space for FREE.

    What else could we be storing on Google Drive? 5GB isn't enough for people who download lots of movies. They're probably just trying to put everything in one spot.

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