Today's the day you've been waiting for. You can finally dump your cell phone company, choose another one, and keep your old number. But before you make a hasty decision, you might check out our Fool's guide to Navigating Wireless Portability. Also today, it's not exactly Dueling Fools, but Vanilla Coke and Pepsi Vanilla are slugging it out in a battle for your taste buds.

In today's Motley Fool Take:

The Price of Portability

If you woke up this morning to the sound of unearthly chatter, it was probably just wireless service providers chewing their nails. Yes, Nov. 24 has arrived, and with it, mobile number portability. Hate your cell phone service -- or rates -- but stuck around just because everyone had your wireless number on speed dial? Your prayers have been answered.

Southwest Airlines (NYSE: LUV) may have cornered the market on the potential marketing slogans like "You are now free to move around the country" or "Wanna get away," but it's clear that wireless providers will feel the pinch initially, no matter how they spin this.

The cellular emancipation couldn't come at a worse time for the companies. Shares of AT&T Wireless(NYSE: AWE), Sprint PCS(NYSE: PCS), and Nextel(Nasdaq: NXTL) are all trading at fractions of their all-time highs and the road ahead doesn't get any easier.

While you are sure to hear horror stories in the coming days about folks going days without wireless service during the transition or that there is really no service provider out there with an immaculate record, the sector will be tested.

The saving grace for these companies is that the very dynamics of portability might be beneficial in the long run. Contract terminations fees are likely to rise. Those great deals on Nokia(NYSE: NOK) handsets that you get for signing up with a company are bound to go away -- or simply shackled to longer contracts.

The providers will learn to profit from the churn. If not, there will be a shakeout and those left behind will be in a better position with larger chunks of market share and more leeway to dictate pricing.

Cellular service providers aren't fading away. Verizon Wireless -- a joint venture between Verizon(NYSE: VZ) and Vodafone(NYSE: VOD) -- posted an 18% jump in revenue on the way to adding 1.3 million new accounts this past quarter. The problem hasn't been attracting subscriber as much as profiting from them.

Wireless number portability won't be painless, but it just may just be the eye-opener the industry needs to evolve into a sector that will fundamentally connect with its consumers -- and its investors, too.

Discussion Board of the Day: Living Below Your Means

Think that portability will be a great way to lower your costs by switching to a more attractive pricing plan? Want to learn about even more ways to shave some of your overhead while spending less than you earn? All this and more in the Living Below Your Means discussion board. Only on

Xerox Looks Ahead

How the mighty can fall. But will this giant rise again?

Xerox (NYSE: XRX) , once one of the bluest of the blue chips, has had nothing but trouble during the last few years, starting with market upheaval, brutal competition, drifting financials, and accounting scandals. The scandal is behind it now, however, and only scathing competition and volatile financials remain.

In an analyst conference call this morning, Xerox's CEO Anne Mulcahy said she's pleased with the company's market opportunities, but provided 2004 guidance slightly below analysts' expectations. Whether the blame is on Xerox or on optimistic analysts is irrelevant. Disappointment on Wall Street ensued and the media focused on the black eye rather than the half-smile beneath it.

For next year, Xerox projected earnings per share of $0.67 to $0.72. The consensus analyst estimate was $0.73 or $0.74 (depending on your source). For 2005, the company projected strong earnings growth, rising to a range of $0.90 to $1.00 per share, on 5% sales growth. Sales are down modestly this year and expected to be flat in 2004.

Mulcahy said the company has ample growth opportunities, so the focus is on execution and paying down debt. Xerox has $11.8 billion in long-term debt. It should pay it down to $11 billion by year-end, and will keep paying it. Free cash flow is making this easier. Management expects $1.5 billion in free cash flow this year. That puts the company's enterprise value, at $10 per share, at about 11 times expected free cash flow.

Competitors such as Hewlett-Packard(NYSE: HPQ) and Canon(NYSE: CAJ) are several times larger than Xerox by market cap, but in its quarter three conference call (summary courtesy of CCBN StreetEvents), Xerox said equipment sales are up in key markets, leading to market share gains.

Xerox is a faded giant with improving financials, a situation that turnaround-interested investors might find attractive. Unfortunately, it doesn't offer a dividend while you wait, but at 14 times 2004's expected earnings and nearly 10 times 2005's guess, the stock could provide appreciation of around 50% over the next two years if management executes.

Quote of Note

"Don't part with your illusions. When they are gone you may still exist, but you have ceased to live." -- Mark Twain

Glaxo's Patent Problems

"Copycat" may have been an unflattering taunt in childhood, but when it comes to drug companies, copycats are more than just a minor annoyance. GlaxoSmithKline(NYSE: GSK) announced late Friday that its patent for antibiotic Augmentin is indeed invalid, despite its valiant attempts at an appeal in federal court.

A lower court had already ruled against Glaxo's Augmentin patent, leaving the company open to generic competition from Geneva Pharmaceuticals, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries(Nasdaq: TEVA), and Ranboxy Laboratories.

Generic competition is hardly unusual in the world of big pharma. Companies with blockbuster drugs that face patent expiration generally find a new application or more convenient dosage schedule, sometimes even a new name and marketing angle, in order to preserve revenues and give new life to an endangered drug. For example, Glaxo also has Augmentin ES and XR in its pharmaceutical lineup, which represent 35% of all prescriptions written for Augmentin, both branded and generic.

Back in September, a generic version of Paxil, one of Glaxo's most popular drugs, launched the company into another patent dispute.

Another of Glaxo's high-profile drugs that could face increased competition is Levitra, a drug for erectile dysfunction co-launched with Bayer(NYSE: BAY) several months ago amid a flurry of media fanfare and slightly risque advertising. Levitra is pitted against Pfizer's(NYSE: PFE) first-mover in the market, Viagra.

On Friday came word of the Food and Drug Administration approval and imminent launch of yet another impotence drug, Cialis, masterminded by Eli Lilly(NYSE: LLY) and ICOS Corp.(Nasdaq: ICOS). That drug is expected to appear on pharmacy shelves -- and potentially steal some market share -- as early as December.

Much like Merck(NYSE: MRK), which revealed new troubles last week, Glaxo is a pharmaceutical giant facing competition from both generic and branded competitors and a weakening pipeline for potential new blockbusters. Investors considering some of the big pharmaceutical names should probably be prepared for quite a rollercoaster ride as these issues play out.

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