Tech investors often buy stocks with the beefiest growth numbers and sell them once that growth cools off. However, many of today's top tech stocks should be held for years instead of months, since they could eventually evolve into much larger companies. Let's discuss three tech companies -- Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN), and Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL) -- which could reward patient shareholders over the next ten years.
Facebook in 10 years
Facebook, the largest social network in the world, has 1.44 billion monthly active users worldwide. Through single-sign ons on third party sites and apps, Facebook is tethering more users (and their data) back to its main site. Facebook also owns Instagram, which has 300 million active users, and WhatsApp, which has 800 million. Both platforms could eventually become new sources of revenue alongside Messenger, which Facebook is developing into a stand-alone platform with payments, apps, and possibly games. With its new Audience Network, Facebook lets advertisers deliver ads to other third-party apps.
With Parse, Facebook provides app developers with push notifications, social media integration, location data, and analytics services. Facebook bundles app-install ads in the News Feed with Parse in an all-in-one package, which lets it profit from app sales without opening an app store. Facebook recently expanded Parse to the Internet of Things (IoT) market, which could give it a foothold in the growing wearables and smart home markets. Facebook is even dabbling in AI, which it can use to analyze user data, and virtual reality, which it will bring to mainstream consumers with Oculus Rift next year.
Facebook is expanding into developing markets with Internet.org, which lets low income users access apps like Facebook without accumulating data charges. Facebook intends to expand that service to remote areas with solar-powered drones in the near future. This ambitious project could arguably make Facebook synonymous with the Internet.
Amazon in 10 years
Last year, Google chairman Eric Schmidt admitted that "almost a third" of people looking to buy a product went straight to Amazon, compared to "more than twice" the number who started a search on Google.
Between 2004 and 2014, Amazon's annual revenues soared from $6.9 billion to $89 billion. During that time, Amazon evolved from a simple online retailer into a "jack of all trades" specializing in cloud services, consumer electronics, and digital media.
Amazon hasn't been shy about increasing expenses to invest in long-term ecosystem growth. Those initiatives include its Kindle devices, its Fire TV set-top box, its cloud-based Echo virtual assistant, and the Dash devices which allow customers to restock groceries and household products. Amazon tethers many of those services together with Amazon Prime, its $99 per year service which offers free two-day shipping, discounts, free streaming media, free e-books, cloud storage, and other lucrative perks.
Amazon envisions a future where its entire system is automated. The company is already testing drone-based deliveries, and deployed 10,000 robots to work at its massive fulfillment centers last year. Within ten years, orders made from one of Amazon's in-home devices could be filled by robots, which would pass the product to drones which fly the product directly to your doorstep.
Google in 10 years
Facebook and Amazon have respectively conquered social networking and product search -- two crucial markets which Google has struggled in. Google's weakness in those markets could impact its core advertising business for two reasons. First, successful social networks give marketers a gold mine of personal user data and a captive audience -- the same thing Google tries to offer. Second, users directly visiting Amazon or native shopping apps makes Google's search-based product ads less useful.
However, Google could also evolve into a much different company over the next decade. Over the past few years, Google has invested in military robots, artificial intelligence, healthcare, smart cars, and other "bleeding edge" fields. Many of those "moon shots" might not grow beyond their niche markets, but others -- like cloud-connected medical equipment, drugs, and driverless cars -- could yield surprising results.
AbbVie has already teamed up with Google's Calico biotech subsidiary to develop new drugs. Novartis licensed Google's "smart contact lens" technology, which detects glucose levels through tears. Even Johnson & Johnson recently partnered with Google to develop a new platform for robot-assisted surgeries. For driverless cars, Google could license its technology to major automakers as the vehicles become more widely accepted.
Google's growth could stall out over the next decade if Facebook and Amazon cause the value of its ads to drop. But if any of its moon shots evolve into sustainable businesses, Google could become a well-diversified giant which straddles multiple industries with ease.
The bottom line
In the near term, investors can expect to see a lot of conflicts between these three tech titans. I expect all three companies to become much larger over the next decade, evolving far beyond their core competencies of social networking, online shopping, and search advertising.