Longtime Fool, author, and Rule Your Retirement advisor Robert Brokamp just added yet another achievement to his long list of accomplishments. This week, columnist Dave Barry selected an idea suggested by Robert and his daughter, Jocelyn, for Barry's annual Holiday Gift Guide -- a compendium of "stupid, useless items that no sane human would ever actually buy."

The wacky gift that made the grade? The Storm Defender Cape, which is reputed to reduce your dog's sensitivity to the static charge that accompanies a thunderstorm and wigs some dogs out. Our office mutt, Posie, will be so relieved.

In today's Motley Fool Take:

Pixar's Waiting for Summer


Rick Aristotle Munarriz (TMF Edible)

If you were hoping for new model Cars to hit the showroom next fall, don't wait for a test drive. Disney(NYSE: DIS) and Pixar(Nasdaq: PIXR) announced that they would be delaying Pixar's next full-length animated feature by eight months to cash in on the potent summer crowd come 2006.

Cars is the last original flick due to Disney in a deal that finds the companies splitting the production costs as well as the profits. The move adds cruel buckets of sand to the hourglass that marks Pixar's eventual emancipation from a contract that it has long outgrown.

However, it shouldn't have come as a complete surprise. After trouncing its third-quarter profit targets last month, Pixar let a trial balloon fly during its conference call when it revealed that it was leaning toward a summer release schedule instead of its historical holiday season debuts. It pointed to the success of its lone summertime rollout -- Finding Nemo -- and hinted that its first post-Disney film was likely to be held back until the summer of 2007 over the more logical summer of 2006 release.

It has to be frustrating. With DreamWorks Animation(NYSE: DWA) having no problem loading up the multiplex with two computer-rendered films every year, why should Pixar have a dry 2005?

Sure, a summer debut makes sense. It's a timely automotive release as families prepare to load into their own cars for road trip vacations. More importantly, it feeds the lucrative home video launch into the active holiday shopping season.

Yet with Pixar now having spaced its last few releases 18 months apart, will shareholders be annoyed that the throughput is happening three times faster at rival DreamWorks? Pixar has been a winning Motley Fool Stock Advisor newsletter recommendation, but how forgiving will investors be when Pixar eventually coughs up a dud and that hourglass trickles a year and a half of desert sand before the next bit of celluloid comes around?

You can't rush quality, and Pixar's track record -- an enviable six for six on the animated feature front -- vindicates the company's slow hand. But let's cut through the sugarcoated drivel. Five of those hits, including the current smash hitThe Incredibles, have had no problem with November introductions.

Pixar claims that it has not had any production delays, so why extend the breakup process? What does the extra time buy, beyond the possibility of upsetting Pixar's profit models in the near term? It would be naive to expect that delaying the eventual separation may be the seed to an eventual reconciliation. Yet any budding conspiracy theorist would be nuts not to note that the extra time may allow Pixar to lend a hand to the controversialToy Story 3 project or see whether an agreeable face ultimately replaces CEO Michael Eisner at the helm in 2006.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz owns all of the Pixar releases on DVD. Yes, he owns shares of Pixar too -- and Disney. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.

Discussion Board of the Day: CMGI

Are you ready to believe in CMGI again? Will the new company reclaim the naming rights to CMGI Field in New England? Should the company declare a reverse split to reduce the massive number of shares outstanding? All this and more -- in the CMGI discussion board. Only on Fool.com.

IBM's Win-Win


W.D. Crotty

Certain names and products go hand in glove. Like, say, IBM(NYSE: IBM) and computers. It was the big mainframe manufacturer's 1981 launch of the IBM PC -- which challenged Apple's(Nasdaq: AAPL) fast-selling Apple II -- that really launched the personal computing marketplace.

For a base price of $1,565, you got an Intel(Nasdaq: INTC) 4.77-megahertz 8088 microprocessor, one 160-kilobyte floppy disk drive (no hard disks back then!), 16 kilobytes of memory, and a version of Microsoft(Nasdaq: MSFT) BASIC in read-only. Add in the VisiCalc spreadsheet -- the killer application -- and the IBM name got the PC onto corporate desktops.

Compaq Computer, now part of Hewlett-Packard(NYSE: HPQ), changed the landscape forever with its 1984 launch of the first cloned IBM PC. (For those walking down memory lane with me, remember when 1984 stood for George Orwell and Big Brother -- not the reality TV show?)

IBM's pricing strategy worked against it and opened the market for powerful, lower-priced PCs, which, over the years, dominated the market.

As Fool writer Seth Jayson reported last week, the rumor mill was churning that IBM would sell its PC business. The company made it official last night when it announced that Lenovo Group, China's leading PC manufacturer, would buy the business for approximately $1.75 billion.

So, what does it all mean? IBM says it will be free to focus on the business client. Really? IBM was selling PCs mostly to business clients! The reality is that $9 billion in sales (roughly 10% of total sales) is being jettisoned at an extremely low price-to-sales ratio because it was producing red ink and IBM has no critical mass to turn that situation around.

The tombstone on the IBM PC business will read, "We created the market and got buried by the competition." But the winners in this deal are IBM, Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation Dell(Nasdaq: DELL), and Hewlett-Packard. IBM will stop the flow of red ink in personal computing, and that will help its profitability. Lenovo, even with IBM standing behind it, will certainly lose customers who were buying the IBM reputation -- and that will help Dell and HP.

Fool contributor W.D. Crotty, an application software consultant, does not own stock in any of the companies mentioned, but he did write this article on a Dell computer.

Quote of Note

"Peace cannot be kept by force. It can only be achieved by understanding." -- Albert Einstein

Eli Lilly Bares All


Alyce Lomax (TMF Lomax)

Given recent furor regarding clinical trials of pharmaceuticals, Eli Lilly(NYSE: LLY) has unveiled a website that will post clinical trial results, according to TheWall Street Journal. Given Merck's(NYSE: MRK) recent Vioxx entanglement, such a move is obviously meant to put investors, physicians, and consumers at ease.

Merck, of course, has suffered greatly over the troubles surrounding arthritis drug Vioxx. This even included recent word that the Department of Justice and Securities and Exchange Commission are both conducting investigations into the situation, including shareholder disclosure practices.

It's hardly shocking that pharmaceutical companies would begin to make such moves as this. Vioxx may have been the final catalyst, but there has also been a lot of talk over recent months about antidepressant data as well. (Lilly itself had some unpleasant media attention in the spring over the possibility of a link between its newest antidepressant Cymbalta and teen suicide in clinical trials, while antidepressants in general have experienced similar scrutiny.)

WSJ reported that other pharmaceutical companies such as GlaxoSmithKline(NYSE: GSK) are taking similar steps, although Lilly is at the most advanced stage as of yet. Lilly's site is available at http://www.lillytrials.com/ and includes trial data by disorder and medication, as well as recruiting trials and ongoing studies. It also includes a glossary of terminology for those of us who aren't expert in medical terms.

With regulatory agencies taking a closer look at the ways in which pharmaceutical companies disclose clinical trial results, it bodes well for corporations to take steps to fix problems before regulatory intervention is deemed necessary. Meanwhile, this is a step toward generating trust -- after all, shareholders, physicians, and consumers alike are likely looking askew at Big Pharma these days.

Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned.

Ticking Retirement Time Bomb


Dayana Yochim (TMF School)

Hi, kids. Tonight your parents are going out to the grown-up party, and I'll be baby-sitting. Once you're in your jammies (8:30 sharp!), we'll read this bedtime story that I brought with me from work: "Can America Afford Tomorrow's Retirees: Results From the EBRI-ERF Retirement Security Projection Model," in collaboration with the Milbank Memorial Fund. (There are copies for both of you, so no need to fight with your sister.)

The story is about Mommy and Daddy and their retirement! What's retirement, you ask. Retirement is like recess for grown-ups. Grown-ups save their money so that they can stop working and instead go on cruises to Alaska when they're not sitting at home waiting for you to call, which you won't do enough. No, not even to ask for a glass of water.

By the year 2030 -- when we all have rocket boots and plasma TVs are affordable -- there will be an annual shortfall of at least $45 billion between the amount retired Americans need to cover basic expenses and what they have. Just think about what you could buy with 45 billion dollars. That sure is a lot of Dash dolls and Game Boys!

Let's read this part together: "The shortfall is currently in the $28 billion to $35 billion range, depending on whether housing equity is liquidated."

Yes, you can color in this graph. There's plenty of space between the line going up that shows what bills Mommy and Daddy and their friends will have to pay for, and that line way, way below it that shows how far Mommy's and Daddy's savings will actually go.

Hey, sweeties, turn those frowns upside down. Your parents have good jobs and put money in their piggy banks to save for their retirement recess. I don't want to ruin the ending for you, but you'll see that if your parents save just 5% more of their paycheck each year until they retire, they'll be OK. (Let's take a break before you brush your teeth for some fun with math! There are 100 pennies in one dollar. Five percent of that is just five pennies! Easy peasy!)

Mom and Dad don't have to pay for everything. Their bosses are helping out a bit right now by putting some money into their retirement pension plans (some are called "401(k)s"). Plus, the president is going to put stuff like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid on his credit card.

On the next page we meet the poor little matchstick girl. She hasn't met her Prince Charming, and the evil stepmother doesn't pay her very much to sweep up the chimney embers and sew ball gowns for the princesses.

Poor matchstick girl. She needs to save a lot more money -- 25% of her paycheck for the next 30 years! -- so she can afford retirement recess and things like nursing home care and home health-care costs. Even if she sells her one-room gingerbread house, she might not make up for the shortfall in her retirement income.

But let's think about fun things before I turn out the lights and leave the door opened exactly 5 1/2 inches. What are you going to do during your retirement recess? With a little planning, you can watch TV (the channels you want) all day long! As long as you save part of each of your allowance, and your parents don't need to borrow money from you, it'll be recess all day, every day!

Next week we'll read from The Ticking Retirement Time Bomb: What State Governments Can Do!

Sweet dreams!

Dayana Yochim has a knack for picking bedtime stories that make children really sleepy. She recommends The Motley Fool's disclosure policy and a warm glass of milk. The free trial issue of Rule Your Retirement has much better jokes, though.

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