Tech stocks have delivered a lackluster performance in 2021 so far. The S&P 500 Information Technology sector is up 5% year-to-date, significantly trailing the 11% return of the broader S&P 500. But rather than dwell on the past, investors should look at this as an opportunity.

Tech companies like NVIDIA (NASDAQ:NVDA), Adobe Systems (NASDAQ:ADBE), and salesforce.com (NYSE:CRM) benefit from strong competitive advantages, and all three stocks look like good long-term investments. Here's why.

1. NVIDIA: The leader in accelerated computing

NVIDIA is a market-leading provider of graphics processing units (GPUs) and AI solutions. Its brand name has become synonymous with best-in-class graphics in video games and high-performance computing in data centers. In fact, NVIDIA has over 90% market share in the supercomputing accelerator market.

Digital rocket blasting off from tablet, surrounded by various technology icons.

Image source: Getty Images.

Last year this semiconductor company strengthened its position with the acquisition of Mellanox, a provider of high-performance networking solutions. NVIDIA CEO Jensen Huang noted that this move creates "significant product synergies," allowing the company to take a more holistic approach to data center hardware design.

Together, NVIDIA and Mellanox power eight of the top 10 supercomputers in the world. Even more impressive, Italy's CINECA has selected NVIDIA GPUs (and Mellanox networking) to power the world's fastest AI supercomputer, the Leonardo. Once built, the system will deliver 10 exaflops of performance, making it nearly 19 times faster than Japan's Fugaku, which currently tops the list of the world's fastest supercomputers.

According to Cathie Wood's ARK Invest analysis, accelerators like NVIDIA GPUs will displace central processing units (CPUs) as the dominant processors in data centers by 2030, growing at 21% annually over that period. That opens the door to a $41 billion market opportunity for the chipmaker.

Additionally, factoring in other use cases like enterprise and edge AI, management believes its total addressable market in the data center sector will actually hit $100 billion by 2024. That's why the future looks bright for NVIDIA.

2. Adobe: The leader in creative content

Adobe Systems provides three different cloud platforms: Creative Cloud is a suite of software for image and film editing, graphics design, and other creative endeavors. Document Cloud prioritizes productivity, enabling enterprises to shift away from paper-based processes. And Experience Cloud helps marketers manage content, analyze data, and deliver personalized digital experiences to consumers.

Adobe is the market leader in all three of these categories. Many of its creative applications -- including Photoshop, Premiere Pro, and Illustrator -- are considered industry standards. The same is true of PDF-based products like Adobe Acrobat and Adobe Scan. And in digital experience, research firm Forrester notes, "More firms purchase marketing technology software from Adobe than any other vendor."

Synergies across Adobe's three clouds have been a key contributor to the company's success. The creation of digital content, whether it's graphic art or a PDF, is the first step in delivering a compelling customer experience. And Adobe's end-to-end solution gives clients all the tools necessary to go from inspiration to content to engagement.

That has driven demand, resulting in strong financial performance over the long term.

Metric

2015

Q1 2021 (TTM)

CAGR

Revenue

$4.8 billion

$13.68 billion

22%

Free Cash Flow

$1.28 billion

$5.79 billion

33%

Data source: Adobe SEC filings. TTM = trailing-12-months. CAGR = compound annual growth rate.

During a recent analyst meeting, management provided a telling statistic: In 2015, 61% of Adobe's customers had adopted three or more products, but by 2020 that figure had risen to 93%. In other words, Adobe is not only keeping customers, but they're also spending more over time.

Going forward, Adobe should continue to grow as enterprises follow consumers to digital channels like web, mobile, video, and social platforms.

3. Salesforce: The leader in customer relationship management

Salesforce is the market-leading provider of customer relationship management (CRM) software. Its Customer 360 platform connects different enterprise teams -- sales, services, marketing, and commerce -- and enables them to work together to provide a top-notch customer experience.

For example, Sales Cloud helps clients monitor leads, predict demand, and bill their customers, automating various tasks along the way. Likewise, Service Cloud helps clients provide great customer service, using chatbots to field and resolve routine issues, while also connecting service agents to mobile employees when a boots-on-the-ground response is necessary.

The Salesforce platform also uses artificial intelligence to surface insights from customer data, forecast outcomes, and make suggestions. This helps its clients work more productively.

According to the International Data Corp. (IDC), Salesforce controlled 19.8% of the CRM market through the first half of 2020. That gives it a wide lead over the next-closest competitor, Oracle, with a 5.3% market share. Moreover, Salesforce's market share has trended upward since 2015, while Oracle's has trended downward.

That dominance has helped make Salesforce the fastest-growing software-as-a-service (SaaS) company of all time. In fact, its top line has grown at 29% annually over the last 10 years, and CEO Mark Benioff believes this trend will continue. During the most recent earnings call, he predicted that Salesforce would reach $50 billion in annual revenue by fiscal 2026, making it the fastest SaaS company to hit that milestone.

That's why, despite its $200 billion market cap, I think Salesforce has plenty of gas left in the tank.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.