Jan 3, 2000 at 12:00AM
For a Foolish investor, the focus is never a single day's gain or loss, which is winning or losing a mere battle. Instead, the focus is on a lifelong victory -- winning the entire war. Harboring a long-term perspective since it was launched in 1994, the Rule Breaker Portfolio has gained, with very little trading, 1715% versus the S&P 500's gain of 217% and the Nasdaq's 474% gain over the same period.
Our gain isn't magic. It's merely the result of good, longer-term investing -- investing the likes of which anyone can achieve, even though few professionals ever do. To learn about this real-money portfolio's investing style, please read the Rule Breaker's principles linked to the right, or start right here: Principle 1. After reading these, if you have questions, visit the Rule Breaker message boards linked below this column. We're here to help. This portfolio isn't about showing off, it's about educating. One of our greatest wishes is that the people who learn about investing through us go on to outperform us, and many of you do exactly that.
This daily column and the message boards are a great tool, although "scattered" by nature. If you're interested in a strictly focused, interactive seminar about Rule Breaker investing held by David Gardner, see the promo copy at the end of this column. A Rule Breaking seminar begins in February.
zBubbles Poppin' on Your Screen?
Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT) finally launched its online store in "completed form," but yikes! Wal-Mart's book store doesn't carry any Fool books, not to mention F. Scott Fitzgerald! The rest of the site, though fairly well made, doesn't appear to my biased eye a serious threat to Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN). Wal-Mart's site lacks community, and so many other features (and products) that swim in abundance at Amazon.
So, despite Wal-Mart's cyber arrival, Amazon's stock surged over 17%, at least partially on word that it was the most-visited commerce site over the holidays as measured by unique visitors. Amazon was followed by eBay (Nasdaq: EBAY) and eToys (Nasdaq: ETYS). Not to be left out, America Online (NYSE: AOL) partly rose on word that its merchants achieved billions in holiday sales.
There wasn't "new" news today, but there is something new on the horizon from Amazon that hasn't gotten much press because it's in beta form. It's called zBubbles.
zBubbles is a software application created by Amazon subsidiary Alexa Internet. The software allows you to conduct price comparisons for a product without leaving the website that you're visiting, and it also allows you to buy the product directly from Amazon with 1-Click at anytime, even if you're on the website of, say, Buy.com. Of course, competitors are raising issue with the software, but rather than address that now, let's first address what else zBubbles does.
After you download zBubbles, whenever you visit a commerce site that the software is programmed to compare against, a small icon in the corner of your Web browser changes color. Then, next to the product that you're viewing, small Z icons appear. When you click an icon, a "bubble" pops up to cover one-fifth of your screen. The bubble shows you where else you can buy the product, or related products, and it links to websites that may offer a cheaper price or even a better product. The bubble also tells you if Amazon sells the product and, if it does, you can buy the product from Amazon without leaving the site you're visiting. (It also links to customer product reviews housed on Amazon.)
zBubbles will largely rely on an interactive userbase to build out the service. As a user, you can make suggestions on where to find a product at the best cost. You can also suggest related products that may be better; in the process of making these suggestions, you can write a full product review into zBubbles which is then consolidated into a collection of reviews on the product that is shared with all users.
Competitors may complain, but Amazon has the bases covered. The software is run from the user's computer, so Amazon isn't tampering with other websites. Also, the zBubble service is not built to work on the sites of Amazon's direct e-commerce competitors. Not yet, anyway. The only sites programmed to work with zBubbles are sites offering product reviews and product manufacturers' sites, or sites that sell products that they actually manufacture (like 3Com or Iomega). That's it. It is up to consumers, the zBubble users, to build the database that compares online retailers to Amazon and to one another, including Wal-Mart, Buy.com, CDnow, eToys, and so forth.
Do you believe consumers will build a large database of product comparisons? I certainly do. Could this backfire on Amazon by causing price wars? Perhaps. But probably not. Shopping comparison software already exists and companies are not, in the long run, going to price themselves into bankruptcy. So, if anything, zBubbles may result in further dominance and trust of the Amazon brand (and the Amazon community), because zBubbles is not pushing consumers to Amazon. It is helping consumers find the best products on the Internet at the best price. In the process, it will blur the boundaries of competition.
To download the beta version of zBubbles and give it a spin yourself, visit this link: http://www.zbubbles.amazon.com/getz. The official launch of zBubbles is scheduled for early this year.
Until Next Time...
It's 2000. When better to begin resolutions? This month, the Fool offers one Foolish resolution a day. Don't miss these "must dos."
Next, start to plan for retirement with the Fool's new Retiree Portfolios. Every Monday, David Braze (TMF Pixy) offers a new column on retiree investing, and the real-money portfolios are always updated.
Finally, and partially in relation to Celera (NYSE: CRA), TMF GetFit, ElricSeven, and I are visiting the headquarters of Human Genome Sciences (Nasdaq: HGSI) tomorrow. If you have questions you'd like asked, please post 'em on the HGSI message board tonight. (Don't know what Human Genome Sciences does? Visit Fool Quotes & Data and look up the snapshot.)
Fool on in 2000!
Jeff Fischer (TMFFischer) is advisor at Motley Fool Pro and co-advisor at Motley Fool Options.
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