When I set out to speak this article to you, I had to make sure I had a very tight outline. Yes, that's right, I said speak this article.
This entire story was spoken into my iPhone and transcribed by a free application called Dragon Dictation. It's made by Nuance
The free Dragon Dictation for the iPhone is quite a bit more limited than Dragon's pay programs. For instance, I'm limited to about 30-second snippets as I speak this, though I just keep pressing the record button to add on to the current snippet. The resulting text can be pasted into an email or text message, stored in the clipboard, or even pushed out to Facebook or Twitter. If I decide to make a habit of speaking my articles, I'll of course upgrade to the more robust NaturallySpeaking -- but this free iPhone app is quite astonishing for what it can accomplish.
Nuance is a game-changing company, producing some of the most exciting and disruptive software in the world.
Meet the gamest changer of them all
Another such company is Google. You're certainly aware of its search capabilities, and probably many of its other applications: foreign language translation tools, the Picasa photo program, Google documents, the Chrome browser, Google Earth, etc. But the one that really gets my investing juices flowing is still relatively unknown: Google Maps Navigation.
This is a GPS navigation system that's currently available only on phones running Google's Android 1.6 and higher operating system, but there's little doubt it will eventually be available for a wide array of devices, including the iPhone.
The things Maps Navigation can do that other GPS devices cannot is impressive. For starters, it has an Internet connection that keeps the maps and software completely up to date. Unlike other devices, you can misspell words and as long as you're close, Google says, "we'll figure it out." There is also voice search, meaning there's no need to fumble around with a keypad while driving.
You certainly can type in your destination if you want, but either way, Google makes it extremely easy to enter information. You can even enter somewhat vague information -- "Navigate to the museum with the King Tut exhibit in San Francisco" -- and Google has a very good chance of finding what you want.
There is also a live traffic conditions feature, as well as the ability to search along the route for virtually anything you need. There's a satellite view. There's Google's street view, which, in theory, shows you exactly what you'll be seeing along the roads as you navigate. (Reviews have been mixed, but everyone understands this product is still in beta and will only get better.)
But perhaps the most amazing thing about Google Maps Navigation is that it's absolutely free. What a game-changer in the personal navigation devices market! This product is trampling on what is already a relatively new and dynamic industry. Yes, Google is disrupting even a disruptor like Garmin, which is under intense competitive pressures from many sides now.
When to invest in disruptors
There is money to be made in seeking out the world's most exciting companies and investing in them when others are still skeptical. Motley Fool co-founder David Gardner looks for these characteristics in a company:
1. Top dog and first mover in an important, emerging industry. One example is First Solar
(Nasdaq: FSLR), a first mover in thin-film solar panels. It faces price competition but has durable price advantages over silicon modules.
2. Has a strong, sustainable advantage. This is the toughest to gauge. TASER
(Nasdaq: TASR)and Force Protection (Nasdaq: FRPT), for example, were strong early movers in their industries. Neither was able to maintain a strong competitive advantage, however, and both are still hampered by their reliance on government contracts.
3. Strong past price appreciation.
4. Good management in place with smart backing. A couple of my favorites in this category are Oracle
(Nasdaq: ORCL)and Baidu (Nasdaq: BIDU); each has more than 20% insider ownership, visionary CEOs, and high returns on equity.
5. Strong consumer appeal. David prefers consumer-facing companies with strong brands like Best Buy
(NYSE: BBY), which has a top-ranking retail brand. These types of companies, that imprint their brand in the minds of the public, are better understood and stand a better chance of surviving.
6. Has been called overvalued by the media.
Google carries all these attributes and has been called overvalued by at least three analysts this year. But David feels you should ignore the media, because this is the type of company that can provide the highest possible returns, period, for a portfolio. This is why Google is considered a core Rule Breakers stock, and is a holding in the Million Dollar Portfolio.
Million Dollar Portfolio is investing a million of the Fool's own dollars, and is free to choose among all stocks in our newsletter universe. It's allocating 2% to Google now. MDP can really help you find strong companies and build out a complete portfolio of stocks. It will be opening again soon to new members. Click here and enter your email address to get more information.
So, my friends, I will speak to you later. For now, I have to dive back into an old-fashioned word processing program, and clean up some formatting and other issues. How boring.
Sent from my iPhone, courtesy of Dragon Dictation.
This article was originally published on March 1, 2010. It has been updated.
Fool analyst Rex Moore sometimes feels like George Jetson. He doesn't own shares of the companies mentioned in this article. Best Buy is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation. Baidu, First Solar, and Google are Motley Fool Rule Breakers picks. Best Buy and Nuance Communications are Motley Fool Stock Advisor selections. Nuance Communications is a Motley Fool Hidden Gems choice. Motley Fool Options has recommended buying calls on Best Buy. The Fool owns shares of Best Buy and Oracle. True to its name, The Motley Fool is made up of a motley assortment of writers and analysts, each with a unique perspective; sometimes we agree, sometimes we disagree, but we all believe in the power of learning from each other through our Foolish community. The Fool has a disclosure policy.