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 company behind the Dragon NaturallySpeaking software for personal computers. NaturallySpeaking can start up programs on your computer, navigate menus, or help you surf the Web. And of course it also allows you to "type" in your word processing program much faster than you can with your fingers -- 120 words per minute versus 40, according to 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, or stored in the clipboard. 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 started up the Rule Breakers newsletter in 2004 to search for such stocks. He 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 over 20% insider ownership, visionary CEOs, and high returns on equity.
5. Strong consumer appeal. David prefers consumer-facing companies with strong brands, including Wal-Mart
(NYSE: WMT)and Best Buy (NYSE: BBY), which have top-ranking retail brands. Companies like these 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 stock among all the Rule Breakers recommendations, one of just eight that have received that designation.
The Rule Breakers team has beaten the S&P 500 by an average of 26 percentage points per recommendation since the newsletter's inception in 2004. David is offering a free trial that for the next 30 days will allow you to see every single recommendation the service has offered -- including the other seven core companies for your growth-stock portfolio. For more information on that, click here.
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 owns no shares of the companies mentioned in this article. Best Buy and Wal-Mart Stores are Motley Fool Inside Value picks. Baidu, First Solar, and Google are Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendations. Best Buy is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor pick. Nuance Communications is a Motley Fool Hidden Gems pick. The Fool owns shares of and has written puts on Oracle. Motley Fool Options has recommended a bull call spread position on Best Buy. The Fool owns shares of Best Buy. The Fool has a disclosure policy.