Which tech giant will rule 2013 -- Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL ) or Google (NASDAQ: GOOG ) ?
This is actually one of life's simpler questions. The answer is Apple in 2013 -- as this will be the Year of Jony Ive -- and Google for at least half of 2014, as that will be the Year of Google Glass.
It was Benjamin Graham, a man who wouldn't touch a growth stock if his life depended on it, who once described the market as a short-term voting machine and a long-term weighing machine. I ask myself: "How will investors be voting?" That's impossible to know for sure, but ignoring an exogenous shock or Minsky Moment, the answer will likely be "Whichever way consumers are voting." And how will consumers vote?
With their eyes.
Jony Ive will give them plenty to see. Visual design is, after all, what Jony Ive excels at.
Fanboys who knock Tim Cook for being "so not Steve Jobs" ignore how responsive Apple's new CEO is to its customers. Steve Jobs may have acknowledged Apple Maps fiasco, but he would have gone to the electric chair before responding to it in public.
More important is Cook's nod to reviewer complaints about Apple's lack of innovation in its 2012 lineup. Scott Forstall out, Jony Ive in.
Ive assumes the throne
Cook crowned Jony Ive with Job's old role as head of both hardware and software design, which makes 2013 the defining year of Ive's professional life. Every part of the iOS, every component, every shape and color will have Ive's personal stamp on it, and history will judge him either as Jobs' equal or as Jobs' employee. No matter what Ive may say about Zen in public; in private, he's going to aim as high as he can (to thwart Scott Forstall's skeumorphic design ethic, if nothing else).
Ive will have plenty of new Apple inventions to build on. According to PatentlyApple, Cupertino's engineers have been furiously perfecting a new 3D graphical user interface, as well as ramping up research on everything from haptic (touch feedback) technology to biometric security. It's worth noting that Apple was granted a flurry of new TV-related related patents in August.
However, not even Apple TV will be able to stop Google Glass in 2014.
Google Glass is, of course, Mountain View's 0.5-inch display inside of a pair of transparent glasses that responds to verbal commands and hand gestures in the user's field of vision. There's the Internet, games, email, cinema, video chat, Google Maps. If you can do it on a tablet, odds are you can do it on Google Glass. What OS will Google Glass be running? If your answer involves the word "Android," sugary junk food, and a subtle play on the word "glass" then you're probably very, very close.
With a manufacturer's suggested retail price of $1,499.99, Google's designers intend to either waste the iPhone and iPad simultaneously or go down as creators of the best-worst idea since the invention of the Segway.
So what's to keep Google Glass from becoming the sequel to a Bluetooth headset? It has to do with the fact that computers keep getting closer and closer to your face.
Fully automated computers have been around for a while, dating as far back as World War II. Mainframe design brought computers to the workplace. The PC brought computing to the home. The notebook brought computing to your lap. The iPhone brought computing to your hand and ears. Google Glass is designed for the eye.
Expect articles to start appearing about this time next year on financial sites promoting the "Google Glass is a Company Maker" investment thesis. If Google Glass succeeds, the media will be running stories titled "The Death of Apple?" about an hour after the first shipment sells out.
Expect that $1,499.99 price to come way down, too. You have to admire Google for what it is: The home of a lunatic band of technological geniuses who want to encode the whole world and sell it back to you at a discount, living to thwart Apple's lunatic band of technological geniuses who want to encode the whole world and sell it back to you at a premium.
Capitalism at its finest.
Still the Apple of your eye?
There's no doubt that Apple is at the center of technology's largest revolution ever, and that longtime shareholders have been handsomely rewarded with over 1,000% gains. However, there is a debate raging as to whether Apple remains a buy. The Motley Fool's senior technology analyst and managing bureau chief, Eric Bleeker, is prepared to fill you in on both reasons to buy and reasons to sell Apple, and what opportunities are left for the company (and more importantly, your portfolio) going forward. To get instant access to his latest thinking on Apple, simply click here now.