Will Google Get to $1,000 Before Apple Gets to $500?

Each week, I endeavor to report the results of the Big Idea Portfolio, a collection of five tech stocks that I believe will crush the market over a three-year period. I've done it before; my last tussle with Mr. Market ended with me beating the index's average return by 13.35%.

Real money was on the line then as it is now, which means any one of the five stocks you see here could cause me a lot of public embarrassment. This time, most of my stocks fell as Google (NASDAQ: GOOGL  ) made a series of interesting moves.

First, over a six-hour span at South by Southwest (SXSW), the search king showed off wearable technology, including 12 pairs of talking shoes hacked together in three weeks to demonstrate the potential of connecting gear (and brands) to the Web. A Google X engineer also showed up to demonstrate the Glass interactive spectacles.

Source: Google.

Cool as these devices are, they're also only part of Google's growth story. Imagine using search to index and retrieve data about your energy usage compared to average temperature. Then imagine paying your energy bill through Google Wallet and cross-referencing that. Orwellian possibilities abound when you index, well, everything.

Google wants all of us thinking this way. A new service called Keep proposes to challenge Evernote by providing a simple system for archiving anything. Think of it as a slimmed-down productivity tool that does for Google Apps what OneNote does for Microsoft's Office Suite.

Other Googlers pitched access to information as a humanitarian need at SXSW. In one session, Amit Singhal, who oversees search for the company, told the story of an African farmer who hiked several miles to an Internet cafe to search for ways to halt an ant infestation of his potato crop. Google held the answer.

Add it up, and I wonder if the search king isn't fitting itself to be the chief data aggregator and distributor in a hyperconnected world. As Singhal put it: "[E]ven a farmer in Africa, or a mother in an Indian village, or a fisherman in Malaysia, will have as much access to knowledge as kings used to."

Why not? Google is already the original Big Data company. It was the search king's early efforts to boil an ocean of online data efficiently that led to MapReduce and the Google File System, two mechanisms for crunching multiple terabytes of data concurrently across a vast array of cheap servers. Today, these breakthroughs undergird an open-source technology called Apache Hadoop that's used in a number of Big Data projects.

Google, meanwhile, sticks to its own knitting for the biggest Big Data project of all: indexing the Web, every minute of every day, continuously. Mix in Android and Chrome OS devices and a heaping helping of broadband, and Singhal's dream soon becomes a reality.

Of course, there's a business purpose here, too. More networks and devices also mean more data, and Google -- a data processor -- profits by monetizing a portion of those new bits. No one else can do that at the scale Google can, and that's a truth that investors finally seem to understand.

What's the Big Idea this week?
Flagging fortunes at both Rackspace Hosting and Riverbed Technology took a toll as my five tech stocks once more fell against the broader market, giving back 570 basis points since my last report.

Indexes also slipped. This time, the small-cap Russell 2000 led the laggards with a 0.65% decline, followed by S&P 500's 0.24% drop, the Nasdaq's 0.13% dip, and the Dow's 0.01% slip, according to data supplied by The Wall Street Journal. Here's a closer look at where I stood through Friday's close:

Company

Starting Price*

Recent Price

Total Return

Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL  )

$416.26**

$461.91

10.9%

Google

$650.09

$810.31

24.6%

Rackspace Hosting

$41.65

$51.23

23%

Riverbed Technology

$25.95

$14.57

(43.9%)

Salesforce.com

$100.93

$176.06

74.4%

AVERAGE RETURN

--

--

17.80%

S&P 500 SPDR

$124.39**

$155.60

25.09%

DIFFERENCE

--

--

(7.29%)

Source: Yahoo! Finance.
* Tracking began at market close on Jan. 6, 2012.
** Adjusted for dividends and other returns of capital.

Notable newsmakers
Among the other tech stocks making news last week:

  • Apple is rallying  but it may take a while for the Mac maker to get back to $500 a share. An IDC report of third-quarter smartphone sales in China showed less interest in the iPhone there. Cheap alternatives may be a factor, as might a recent report that says Apple isn't making progress in persuading China Mobile  (NYSE: CHL  ) to carry the iPhone 5. Here in the U.S., the latest margin-crimping rumor -- thus far denied -- says Amazon.com would consider releasing a $99 version of its Kindle Fire HD to challenge the iPad Mini.

  • Facebook (NASDAQ: FB  ) chief Mark Zuckerberg topped Glassdoor's annual list of CEOs by earning better than 99% approval from employees despite a flagging stock price in his company. A Glassdoor survey also names rhe social network as the best place to work.

  • Reports of sluggish U.S. demand for the new Z10 handset led to a nearly 8% sell-off in BlackBerry (NASDAQ: BBRY  ) shares Friday. The news comes in the wake of Gartner's issuing of bearish predictions for the BB10 operating system. CEO Thorsten Heins also took to the media to criticize Apple and the iPhone ahead of the Z10's launch. Talk about bad timing.

  • Finally, Google now says that YouTube serves more than 1 billion unique monthly visitors and every one of Advertising Age's top 100 brand advertisers. Facebook passed the billion-user mark in October.

What caught your eye in the tech world this week? Do you believe Google is in position to reach $1,000 per share before Apple reaches $500? Let us know what you think in the comments box below.

Want even more Apple information? Allow me to introduce you to The Motley Fool's senior technology analyst and managing bureau chief, Eric Bleeker, who has the skinny on the various reasons to buy or sell Apple right now. Click here to get his latest thinking on the stock  and what opportunities are left for Apple (and your portfolio) going forward.


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