Was Dolby's Destiny Ever in Doubt?

Last summer, Dolby Laboratories (NYSE: DLB  ) CEO Kevin Yeaman noted that Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) didn't include Dolby Digital sound support in preview versions of Windows 8. The next day, Dolby shares plunged 18%.

"This panic is downright silly," I said at the time. "Dolby shares have never looked more attractive."

After all, even if Dolby support weren't explicitly written into Windows 8, consumers would still demand the technology because it is so widely used. Without it, you can't expect to play standard DVD or Blu-ray discs or enjoy digital media streams from many of the leading services. So if Dell (Nasdaq: DELL  ) and Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ  ) wanted to sell systems to consumers -- and I'm sure they still do -- they'd have to pony up a Dolby license on their own.

Since then, Dolby's shares have slowly climbed back to more reasonable valuations. As of last night, an investment in Dolby shares made during that moment of Windows-induced panic would have produced a market-beating 30% return. But then, Mr. Softy showed up to tell us that the fears were unfounded in the first place. Yesterday the company announced that Dolby Digital Plus will be a standard technology included with every Windows 8 tablet and PC, eliminating the need for the system builders to negotiate separate deals with Dolby, as Microsoft stepped in as a middleman.

As a result, Dolby shares soared 20% in pre-market trading (I'm an early riser) to $45 and change -- prices not seen in the last 11 months, but still far short of the nearly $70 all-time highs set in 2010. With prices sitting at $61, master investor Tom Gardner expected massive returns over the next 10 years.

On a truly long-term investing scale like that, the whole Windows 8 brouhaha was merely a blip on the radar -- and a short-lived buying opportunity. Tom Gardner never lost sight of the outsized opportunity, and Dolby was recently featured as a "best buy now" to Stock Advisor subscribers. Grab a free 30-day trial pass to our flagship newsletter service and see for yourself why Tom still carries a big flaming torch for Dolby.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any of the companies mentioned. Check out Anders' holdings and bio or follow him on Twitter and Google+. The Motley Fool owns shares of Microsoft. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Dolby and Microsoft. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended writing covered calls on Dell and creating a bull call spread position in Microsoft. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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  • Report this Comment On May 04, 2012, at 2:26 PM, jasenj1 wrote:

    Unfortunately, I bought in at $52 last year. Still hasn't recovered entirely. Good for those who bought on the recent dip.

  • Report this Comment On May 04, 2012, at 3:14 PM, woo131 wrote:

    It's pretty clear that Dolby's Destiny was in great doubt. Its stock price plunged from $70 to $25 over a short period when nothing was coming together. That's a bit more than 18%, and it is still priced well under its peak.

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