Spring has sprung, and it's a good thing, too. According to USA Today, a breakthrough study shows that surgery patients in rooms with lots of natural light took less pain medication. In fact, the drug costs for these patients ran 21% less than for patients assigned to darker rooms.

That last bit is truly remarkable and could have far-reaching ramifications -- not just for prescription drug plan administrators and hospital operators, but for drug distributors and even big pharma, too. More than that, it might make our next visit to the hospital that much more pleasant. If only a study could put a price on that. Or, maybe one just did.

In today's Motley Fool Take:

De ll

Stepping Down

By Bill Mann (TMF Otter)

Will his company founder without the founder?

What's it like to be 39 years old and have run a spectacularly successful company for 20 years? You can ask Michael Dell this question, as this is exactly what he has done, taking Dell(Nasdaq: DELL) from a one-man computer company up to one of the world's most important corporations.

What you won't be able to ask Michael Dell is what it will be like to be a 40-year-old having run the same company for 21 years. Dell stepped down today as the CEO of his eponymous company, in favor of 51-year-old Kevin Rollins, who has been groomed for this post since he arrived at the company in 1996. His most recent position at the company was president and chief operating officer. Dell, however, will remain chairman of the board.

T. R. Reid, a Dell spokesman, told Internetnews.com that Michael Dell considers this move a shift rather than a departure. "Michael's thinking is that it is a title change instead of some structural shift in the company's business plan," Reid said.

Let's hope so. Along with Larry Ellison at Oracle(Nasdaq: ORCL) and Bill Gates at Microsoft(Nasdaq: MSFT), Dell is deeply associated with the rise of high technology and further is considered the embodiment of the company he founded. Dell has always been credited with recognizing that his love was technology, not organization, and has surrounded himself with a highly professional management team since the earliest days of his company.

But there is also a bit of a King Lear aspect here. There is always the element of an agency shift when the founder and largest shareholder steps aside. Dell, by loosening his grip on the company, is necessarily giving more control to people who may not have the same sensibilities or motivations he has. Where his compensation is largely in the form of long-term stock appreciation, by virtue of his ownership of an enormous slug of the company, that is not duplicable with professional management. Microsoft, by tapping Steve Ballmer when Gates stepped aside, avoided this -- but other companies, including Gateway(NYSE: GTW), did not.

Although this move was not unanticipated, it's still going to add a little uncertainty to Dell. This may not be a bad thing -- remember, Michael Dell has taken sage advice on steering the company for years. Dell says that this is simply another slide down the continuum. But it's a big one, and now the company must learn to adapt to the fact that the dominant shareholder, the guy whose name is on the buildings, is no longer calling all the shots. Even if it's a smooth change, it's a change nonetheless.

Bill Mann owns none of the companies mentioned in this article.

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Marvel's Web Thickens

By Rick Aristotle Munarriz (TMF Edible)

If you've been to your local multiplex lately, you've probably caught the latest trailer for Spider-Man 2. It's got "can't miss" written all over it. What? You haven't seen it?

Peter Parker and his love interest Mary Jane Watson are having a cozy lunch at a street-side restaurant when she asks him if he loves her. "I," actor Tobey Maguire says, followed by a perfect dramatic pause, "don't." She asks for a kiss to make sure. As he nervously moves in to comply, he sees a reflection of a car barreling its way through the restaurant window. He pulls her out of harm's way and into a series of daring action sequences.

While you can never judge a movie by its trailer, betting that Sony(NYSE: SNE) will own the summer is about as safe a bet as any. After the original Spider-Man grossed $821.7 million in ticket sales worldwide, the only one sitting prettier than Sony in all this is Marvel(NYSE: MVL).

Still reaping royalties from its licensed characters like Spidey, Marvel is flexing its ever-bulging bargaining muscles in a content-starved Hollywood, and its earnings have skyrocketed since its roster of comic book heroes took to celluloid.

So, it was welcome to see Marvel and Sony confirm that they are planning for Spider-Man 3. While the film is two or three summers away, the franchise has been Marvel's star. One has to wonder how wide the company's distribution network will be by then. Marvel franchises X-Men and Blade have already proven themselves as worthy sequels. Maybe Hulk didn't live up to expectations, but investors now have Fox's(NYSE: FOX)Fantastic Four to look forward to next year.

Content matters. Marvel knows it. The stock is up more than 530% since David Gardner highlighted it in the July 2002 issue of Motley Fool Stock Advisor. It was a great call, but it shouldn't have come as much of a surprise. The original Spidey flick had been a box office smash two months earlier, and the pipeline was brimming with superhero reinforcements. The fact that the market is often slow to recognize success is why so many Stock Advisor picks have fared so well.

As for Marvel, it is looking to earn about $1.30 a share this year. That's lower than earlier guidance, which once called for the company to make as much as $1.48 a share in 2004, but everything is lining up for more prosperous years down the line. After all, everybody loves to wait for the action-packed sequels.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz realizes that most sequels fail to live up to the original, though he thought X-Men 2 was far better than X-Men. He does not own shares in any companies mentioned in this story.

Di scussion Board of the Day: Marvel

Are you already lining up for the July 2, 2004, debut of Spider-Man 2 or do you have other plans? What about The Punisher next month or Man-Thing later this year? Which Marvel character would you tap for Hollywood stardom next? All this and more -- in the Marvel discussion board. Only on Fool.com.

Jeeves Excites Investors

By Alyce Lomax (TMF Lomax)

Ask Jeeves (Nasdaq: ASKJ) stepped up efforts to grab a greater share in the search space today, announcing that it will acquire Interactive Search Holdings. The news electrified investors, who drove the stock up well over its previous 52-week high.

If you're wondering whom Jeeves is hooking up with, it's the name behind several Internet search properties, some of which you might recognize: Excite, iWon, My Way, and My Search, among others. The deal will have a price tag in the $343 million range.

Ask Jeeves also made paid search look good with an improved outlook for first-quarter earnings. It said it now expects to earn $37 million, or $0.18 per share, compared to previous calls for $35 million, or $0.16 per share. It also expects the deal to boost its 2004 profits to the $57 million to $60 million range, or about triple last year's.

Search, of course, is currently all the rage. Between the long-awaited Google IPO, Yahoo!'s(Nasdaq: YHOO) recent acquisition of Overture, and talk of Microsoft's(Nasdaq: MSFT) work on its own search capabilities, it's obvious that search is the coveted "app" in today's Internet.

For anyone who balked at Ask Jeeves' question-and-answer format, the acquisition gives the search engine provider some Internet properties that use more traditional search techniques. It could double the number of searches that corporate Ask Jeeves performs, judging by data from the fourth quarter. In that period, it performed 680 million searches while Interactive Search, which reaches 17% of U.S. Internet users, clocked 700 million searches.

The deal is reportedly set to close by the end of the second quarter, and is expected to double Ask Jeeves' share of the search market to 7%.

However, according to a recent feature in Wired magazine, Google serves up 200 million requests each day. That's not surprising; it's widely known that it's used for more than 70% of all searches. If seven out of 10 of us will immediately key up that brand for any range of urgent or mundane questions, it stands to reason that just about everybody's Google crazy.

It's neat that that butler guy will widen the scope of Ask Jeeves' search and improve its 2004 outlook. But whether today's skyrocketing stock price -- at one point, it clocked a 40% surge -- is warranted seems questionable. With search dominated by Google and eyed by heavyweights like Microsoft, Yahoo!, and an array of other smaller players, one might wonder -- how long will begging for search scraps be lucrative?

Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any companies mentioned. She always turns to Google.


ote of Note

"Always do right -- this will gratify some and astonish the rest." -- Mark Twain

Mo re on Fool.com Today

Screaming, shouting, recriminations. The Disney annual shareholder meeting was reality TV at its best. Find out what crackled in Disney: Notes From the Front Line.... Biotech is back, baby! But before you jump in, Brian Gorman has a couple of tips from the last bash.... And no one's word matches the gospel of Warren Buffett. He's selling, should you?

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