Revolutionary or disruptive technologies don't come around every day. But when they do, they can be the multibaggers that make a portfolio outperform the market. At The Motley Fool we're always on the lookout for stocks that may become the next Apple or Microsoft, redefining industries and profiting investors along the way.
Today I'll outline three industries where I think disruptive technologies lie, and at least one stock that may be a multibagger for your portfolio.
LEDs, only organic
We've been hearing about OLED TVs for years, but manufacturers have so far disappointed in what they've offered. Since Sony introduced the first OLED TV in 2007, an 11-inch model that cost more than $2,000, the progress has been slow and painful.
But that's about to change, thanks to improving technology. At this year's Consumer Electronics Show, Samsung and LG introduced 55-inch OLED TVs that will hit the market later in 2012.
So why is OLED TV such a disruptive technology? It's all about the materials and manufacturing process. OLED materials can basically be printed on a surface, effectively reducing manufacturing costs versus existing technologies. Of course, that won't happen until economies of scale are reached, but the path is set. Even more impressive is the fact that the surface doesn't need to be a rigid, solid surface, like glass. Flexible-backing materials will eventually be used for large-surface OLED screens, opening a plethora of possibilities. OLED TVs also require little energy, making them more cost-effective once they've been purchased.
How to profit from this disruptive technology? Universal Display (Nasdaq: PANL ) is a pure play on the OLED movement, providing technology and material sales to manufacturers. The company has business agreements with LG Display, Samsung, Sony, and many other companies making moves into OLEDs. As production of small OLED screens has increased, the company has started to show its prowess, nearly doubling revenue in the past year. As screens get bigger, I think this company will be a big winner.
Hope for advanced batteries
Electric cars are a divisive topic no matter how you feel about the issue. Supporters will say that electric vehicles are the future because they will eventually provide a greener, more economical mode of transportation. Doubters will ask what they're supposed to do when their electric car runs out of juice after a 50-mile drive, not to mention the added cost these vehicles currently come with.
Well, technology may soon be able to provide everyone with a palatable solution: a vehicle that can drive 500 miles between charges. IBM (NYSE: IBM ) thinks it has a solution that will provide this kind of range and an energy density 1,000 times better than standard Li-ion batteries.
Who is the winner? Tesla (Nasdaq: TSLA ) has already said its Model S will reach a 300-mile range and is leaps and bounds ahead of its competitors in electric range. Any additional miles engineers can tack on would be a welcome development. Since IBM doesn't make vehicles, it stands to reason that its battery technology would be available to other manufacturers for their electric vehicles. With a head start in the EV space, I think this would help Tesla widen its lead.
A lighting revolution
Lightbulbs have gotten a lot of attention recently after Congress required them to be produced to a certain standard of efficiency. But industry is already moving beyond incandescent bulbs and CFLs to LED lighting.
LEDs last longer, use less power, and don't contain the toxic mercury that CFL bulbs are criticized for. The only downside is cost.
But the cost equation is changing quickly as technology improves and manufacturing capacity is brought online. General Electric (NYSE: GE ) is one of the companies making a big bet on LED technology as the lighting of the future.
But my bet is Cree (Nasdaq: CREE ) , a pure play in LED lighting. The company has a history of growing revenue, 18% in the most recent quarter, and will play a strong role in the technology's wider adoption. Cree's margins have fallen recently, causing its stock to flounder as well, but I think that as costs improve and volumes pick up, this company will be a long-term winner.
Foolish bottom line
OLEDs, advanced batteries for electric vehicles, and LED lighting are technologies I think will be long-term winners, deserving a spot in your portfolio.