We live in interesting times. Blink and you'll miss four or five life-changing technology revolutions, and nearly all of these sea changes are packed with investment value.
But some revolutions matter even more than the rest. Read on to see two Motley Fool analysts diving into the biggest technology trends coming down the pipeline.
Anders Bylund: According to networking giant Cisco Systems (NASDAQ:CSCO), there were 2.5 billion global Internet users at the end of 2013. That's not even one third of the total population, leaving most people unconnected to the rest of the world.
It's easy to take the Internet for granted, living in a modern society with wired and wireless broadband access everywhere we go. Take it from me -- I make a living online, manage my personal finances in my bank's Web-based portal, and I even met my wife in cyberspace. I see the Internet as an essential day of my daily life, and can't imagine being without it.
But America is not a representative slice of the world at large. We're ahead of the game in so many ways (and yet woefully behind the true leaders). The Internet gets business done faster, greases the wheels of low-cost investing, allows forward-thinking geniuses to build retail empires with almost zero overhead costs, and so much more.
But it's a luxury that most of the world simply doesn't have access to yet. That's why the next billion Internet users form the next great growth market.
Cisco obviously loves building the Internet's infrastructure in new geographies, but this is bigger than just a networking play. Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL) explicitly targets the next billion potential ad-clickers and low-cost Android-handset buyers. The company builds online business portals in languages like Hindi and Filipino, trims each new Android release down to fit on smaller and cheaper hardware than the last version, and plans to encircle the globe with network-beaming weather balloons.
That's just the beginning. Google and Cisco believe, as I do, that the Internet has the power to kick backwater societies up a notch, helping them to help themselves. The economic value of the next billion Internet users is massive, because it's not all about adding a few more eyeballs to the (mostly mobile) Web.
It's about changing lives and local economies. It's about changing the world. The investable business value of doing that? It just comes naturally.
Joe Tenebruso: As companies such as Cisco, Google, and Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) help bring Internet access to the 5 billion people who are not yet online, it's important for investors to understand that the great majority of these new connections will come via mobile devices. As such, the growth of mobile advertising will be a key trend that I'll be watching closely.
Research firm eMarketer estimates that spending on mobile advertising will soar more than 75% to $31 billion in 2014. Looking further ahead, eMarketer's analysts expect the market to balloon to $95 billion by 2018.
The companies that can position themselves to win in this massive and fast-growing arena stand to earn investors outsized returns in the years ahead. Here I'm speaking about businesses such as Facebook, which, while once mocked and punished by investors for concerns over its ability to profitably transition its platform from desktop to mobile, is now considered by many to be a premier play on the growth of mobile advertising.
Facebook now has more than 1.1 billion mobile monthly users -- a staggering user base that grew 29% year over year in the third quarter -- and mobile advertising revenue now comprises 66% of its total advertising revenue. That's up from 49% in the third quarter of 2013 and only 14% in 2012. Not surprisingly, Facebook's stock has skyrocketed over that time as it has proven out is mobile strategy, and I believe substantial gains still lie ahead.