Welcome to week 82 of my stock-picking throwdown with Mr. Market. Let's get right to the numbers:


Starting Price*

Recent Price

Total Return





Harris & Harris (Nasdaq: TINY)












Taiwan Semiconductor








S&P 500 SPDR








Source: Yahoo! Finance.
*Tracking began on Aug. 7, 2008.
**Adjusted for dividends and other returns of capital.

Mr. Market's big run just isn't big enough, as my fab five techies gained another two percentage points in this three-year contest. The last time my lead was this big was in August of last year.

I'm putting up better numbers today. Four of the five stocks in my tech portfolio are in positive territory. The lone loser, Harris & Harris, was one of only two net winners last summer. Victories don't come more hollow than that.

Not that I should be gloating. Absolute returns have been easier to come by lately. Both the Nasdaq Composite and S&P 500 indexes reached new 2010 highs on Thursday. The last time the S&P 500 saw higher levels was October 2008. American International Group (NYSE: AIG) helped lead the recent rally, finishing up more than 17% for the week.

That's probably good news for speculators; AIG has been one of their favorite stocks. But when it comes to the world's wealthiest, speculation isn't usually on the menu. They're more likely to maintain huge equity stakes in the companies they've built. Thus, when the market makes a big move, as it did last year, they reap billions in gains.

Actually, make that trillions. Forbes' latest list of the world's billionaires shows their net worth surged 50% to $3.6 trillion last year, my Foolish colleague Morgan Housel reports.

The week in tech
Wednesday marked the 10th anniversary of the end of the dot-com boom and the beginning of a bust that wouldn't end till October 2002. My colleagues and I on the Motley Fool Rule Breakers team marked the occasion by looking back at what went wrong, while also looking ahead to this decade's best tech opportunities.

We didn't name Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) among our favorites, but we could have. Early estimates published by the Silicon Valley Business Journal suggest that the iPhone inventor sold 120,000 iPads on day one, raking in roughly $75 million.

The newsweekly also cited data that showed shoppers preferred the Wi-Fi-only iPads to the more expensive 3G editions by a 2-to-1 ratio. Not exactly great news for AT&T (NYSE: T), whose network is expected to host the majority of 3G iPads.

Like my Foolish colleague Anders Bylund, I'm on record as an iPad skeptic. As a shareholder, I'm happy to see the device selling. New York Times Co. (NYSE: NYT) and Gannett (NYSE: GCI) must be, too. New research suggests the iPad and similar e-readers could dramatically boost engagement with online newspapers, which could lead to higher digital ad rates.

My fear is that Apple will go too far by introducing a bludgeoning system that would compel users to view ads by threatening to shut off or otherwise freeze the devices displaying them. Impossible, you say? Don't be too sure. In October, Apple filed a patent application for exactly that sort of draconian process.

We won't know what that means for a while. And that's OK. Risk is always present in tech investing. The good news: History shows that a portfolio of disruptors can create massive wealth when operating inside a diversified portfolio.

Look at David Gardner. He produced a decade of 20% returns in the real-money Rule Breaker portfolio by betting on a collection of innovators, and then holding them for the long-term. Tom Gardner's "simpleton portfolio" was also a 10-year winner. I believe that, with my tech portfolio, I will achieve similar success.

Checkup time!
Now let's move on to the rest of today's update:

  • IBM issued CEO Sam Palmisano's annual letter to shareholders last Monday. In it, he describes four areas of emphasis for Big Blue: emerging markets, analytics, cloud computing, and its well-documented Smarter Planet initiative. Analytics has proven particularly important. With its February acquisition of Initiate Systems, IBM has spent more than $10 billion on analytics over the past five years, Forbes reports.

There's your checkup. See you back here next week for more tech stock talk.

Get your clicks with more techie Foolishness:

Akamai and Harris & Harris are Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendations. Apple is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor selection. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Tim Beyers is a member of the market-beating Rule Breakers stock-picking team. He had stock and options positions in Apple and stock positions in Harris & Harris, IBM, Oracle, and Taiwan Semiconductor at the time of publication. Check out his portfolio holdings and Foolish writings, or connect with him on Twitter as @milehighfool. The Motley Fool owns shares of Oracle and S&P 500 SPDRs and is also on Twitter as @TheMotleyFool. Its disclosure policy is tech-tastic.