In February 1990, Dell Computer's (Nasdaq: DELL ) total market capitalization was $45 million. Today, it stands at $102 billion, or an increase of 2,266 times in value.
In June 1992, Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) had a market capitalization of $37 billion and was trading at 55 times earnings. Today the shares weigh in at $284 billion, or 7.6 times in value. (Seems shoddy compared with Dell, huh?)
In December 1995, EMC (NYSE: EMC ) was valued by the market at $3.8 billion. Despite getting absolutely pummeled in the last few years, EMC still holds a market value of $31.5 billion, an increase of 8.28 times in value.
Of course, what I've just done is "cherry pick" some of the biggest and best names from the stock market in the past 15 years. I've subliminally seduced you with breathtaking stock market returns and whetted your subconscious appetite for money-lust. (Please don't tell the FCC that I used the word "lust" in my article.)
I've also pointed to these examples of remarkable stock market returns for another reason. At the moments in time that I refer to above, investors and the media pointed to each of these stocks and said that the companies were overpriced. It was very difficult to imagine at those times that Dell could possibly be worth $102 billion. But they are.
I remember reading how Dell was a thin-margined hardware company with intense competition. Microsoft was ridiculously overvalued, and Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) was going to kick their butts. (Heck, I still hear that one.) As for EMC, who would ever need more than 200MB of storage, right? As I write this, I have 400 gigabytes on my home machine, and I'm frustrated by the lack of capacity. Between video and other rich media, I figure 10 terabytes (10,000 gigabytes) would serve me well, for now.
People sometimes have a hard time recognizing earth-shaking, world-beating greatness, even when it's staring them in the face.
If you're in the camp that has a hard time seeing these Rule Breakers of the world, I'm sure it's going to come as a huge shock to you when I say that I believe 20 years from now, we'll be looking back at Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG ) paltry $53 billion market cap and say, "Gosh, if only I had invested in Google back then."
Google will be a $1 trillion company, at least.
Sure, shake your head. But what does $1 trillion really mean in terms of future stock price appreciation? About 16% annually for the next 20 years. Find that hard to believe? I don't. Microsoft has annualized around 35% per year since 1986, most of that growth coming in the earliest days. Outrageous positioning? You better believe it. Google is quite simply the most dominant company of the day. Their success and dominance is right here in front of our faces, and yet the popular media (and perhaps even some fellow Fools) are calling it overpriced or "priced for perfection."
That's fine -- I say that they will be perfect. Fair enough?
An economy unto itself
Why am I so enthusiastic about Google's future? There are lots of reasons to be psyched about this company, but the No. 1 reason is that Google is an economy unto itself. We are truly living in The Google Economy. What does this mean? Quite simply, Google creates value for so many people that failure simply isn't an option. The value chain is long and deep, and all roads lead to a happier consumer. Google creates value for:
Consumers: People are looking for relevant results for their searches, and Google's algorithms deliver the most relevant results.
Advertisers: The meritocracy of Google's AdSense and AdWords programs created $1 billion dollars in this past quarter alone. So many companies use Google to advertise their products and services, and can manage their ROI so carefully, that this very success is what will ensure Google's future success.
Vendors: An entire industry has been created and is focused entirely on helping companies improve their rankings in the search engines. With so many consumers using search engines (mostly Google) to get what they're looking for, it's no surprise that every company in the world is looking to learn and employ best practices for making their websites incredibly relevant and search-engine-friendly.
Network sites: Websites all over the Internet use Google's search to provide results on their own sites, along with relevant advertising. Why beat your head against the wall trying to sell your ad inventory when Google can do it at the highest CPM possible and pass through 77% of it to you?
Anyone who knows anything about advertising in the search engines knows that you have to have a presence on Google and Overture. You cover nearly 90% of the entire search universe by being on these two networks. Overture is owned by Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO ) , and I wouldn't be betting against them either.
Want another example of an economy unto itself? Try eBay (Nasdaq: EBAY ) . They've constructed an underlying technology that benefits their collective clientele many, many times more than it benefits eBay itself. They are the hub, with millions and millions of spokes trading each day.
Google is far more powerful than eBay, however, because it offers the world the promise of finding anything at any time, in a matter of seconds. Google is indexing the world and has already helped us to better find websites, news stories, specific products, images, answers, academia, places, and countless other categories of information. And, as John Battelle (co-founder of Wired magazine) reported last week in his weblog, Google has recently launched its beta version of video search.
With the incredible amount of information in the world, we need a tool to help us find it all in a context that makes sense to us. Is there any doubt that, in time, Google will help us answer the age old question: "Where are my keys!?"
I believe Google is a Rule Breaker in the truest sense of the word. If you believe Google is a no-brainer and you're open-minded enough to invest in these kinds of world-dominating businesses, then you have the right mentality for Rule Breakers investing. Take a free spin, and in 20 years don't say nobody ever told you to invest in Google.
Despite being so optimistic about Google, David Forrest does not own any of the stocks mentioned in this article, though he has every intention of owning Google once the Fool trading restrictions allow.