13 Top Tech Stories to Watch in 2013

by Brad Moon | December 18, 2012 7:00 am

2012 was an interesting year in tech, to say the least.

Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL[1]) became the world’s most valuable company, topping $700 a share and has subsequently shed some 27% of its value. Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT[2]) launched new desktop and mobile operating systems, and surprised everyone with a tablet of its own. Research In Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM[3]) hit new lows, but began to pick up steam as the year closed out and anticipation grew for the long delayed BB10.

Google (NASDAQ:GOOG[4]) completed its purchase of Motorola, then launched a line of tablets. Google’s tablet and Amazon’s (NASDAQ:AMZN[5]) Kindle Fire prompted Apple to relent and release the cheaper, smaller iPad Mini. Intel (NASDAQ:INTC[6]) finally cracked the mobile market (in a small way), but lost its CEO to retirement. And Facebook’s (NASDAQ:FB[7]) IPO famously flopped. As a backdrop to all this, “frenemies” Apple and Samsung hammered each other in court.

With this as a prelude, 2013 also looks to be very interesting. Here are a few of the key stories I’ll be watching closely — and you should be, too.

Individual Companies

Intel: The PC industry is stalled, and mobile is where growth is. At the close of 2012, CEO Paul Otellini’s resignation led to rumors of Intel talking with Apple to replace Samsung as CPU manufacturer for Apple’s mobile devices. Between the possibility of making ARM (NASDAQ:ARMH[8]) chips under license and finally gaining some traction with its own mobile CPUs[9], 2013 could be Intel’s breakout year for tablets and smartphones.

Apple: Will it regain the $700 levels it hit earlier this year, perhaps going even higher? Or is the sell-off of the past few months a sign of things to come? Apple is coming off supply-chain issues[10] and disastrous software debacles (primarily Maps) that saw a management shakeup. The market for premium smartphones and tablets (where Apple makes the lion’s share of its profit) is also becoming far more competitive, even as it grows.

Then there’s the ever-looming tease of a possible Apple TV[11]. It didn’t hit in 2012, so maybe 2013 will be the year. When (and if) it launches, an Apple TV has the potential to be the company’s next breakout category. Or after years of heightened expectations, it could be an expensive miss.

Sony: During this horrible year[12], Sony’s (NYSE:SNE[13]) TV division bled red ink, mobile phones and tablets failed to take off, the Vita portable gaming console struggled and a new e-reader lacked lighting, making it essentially a generation behind on release. Plus, Sony is  selling a new 4k Ultra HD TV (with no content to speak of) for $25,000, and rumors have it that a next-generation Playstation will arrive in the fall. But with so few bright spots, Sony needs to show signs of innovation in 2013 — or it’s in big trouble.

Microsoft: Here’s another company that has the potential to make big gains in 2013 — or fall flat. Windows 8 is just rolling out[14], the Surface RT tablet is on the market, the Surface Pro (with high hopes of saving the enterprise market for Windows) is due for release soon, Microsoft retail stores are opening, a new version of Office is available and the highly successful Xbox 360 is due for replacement. There are rumors the company may release its own Windows Phone 8 smartphones, too.

A few home runs, and Microsoft could get at least some of its mojo back. But if the new stuff — especially the tablets and Windows 8 — fail to meet expectations, CEO Steve Ballmer will be on the hot seat.

Research In Motion: Everyone loves a comeback story, and 2013 will be the year that RIMM either recovers or dies[15]. It’s unlikely to ever regain any position of dominance, but if the new BB10 operating system and devices running it are a hit in January, RIM could come back from the brink and settle into a solid third place in the mobile market, pushing off Windows Phone 8 and keeping a grip on enterprise customers. If BB10 flops, look for a patent sale and parts of the company to get sliced up and sold off on the way down.

Trends

Don’t turn your head away from this sector for more than a second, or you’ll likely miss something fairly momentous.

As of this writing, Brad Moon didn’t own any securities mentioned here.

Endnotes:
  1. AAPL: http://studio-5.financialcontent.com/investplace/quote?Symbol=AAPL
  2. MSFT: http://studio-5.financialcontent.com/investplace/quote?Symbol=MSFT
  3. RIMM: http://studio-5.financialcontent.com/investplace/quote?Symbol=RIMM
  4. GOOG: http://studio-5.financialcontent.com/investplace/quote?Symbol=GOOG
  5. AMZN: http://studio-5.financialcontent.com/investplace/quote?Symbol=AMZN
  6. INTC: http://studio-5.financialcontent.com/investplace/quote?Symbol=INTC
  7. FB: http://studio-5.financialcontent.com/investplace/quote?Symbol=FB
  8. ARMH: http://studio-5.financialcontent.com/investplace/quote?Symbol=ARMH
  9. finally gaining some traction with its own mobile CPUs: http://investorplace.com/2012/11/intel-down-now-but-will-come-back-strong/
  10. supply-chain issues: http://investorplace.com/2012/11/apples-biggest-risk-could-be-its-suppliers/
  11. ever-looming tease of a possible Apple TV: http://investorplace.com/2012/02/do-rumors-of-apple-itv-testing-by-canadian-telcos-seem-credible/
  12. horrible year: http://investorplace.com/2012/02/can-kazau-hirai-navigate-sonys-sea-of-red-sne-aapl-amzn/
  13. SNE: http://studio-5.financialcontent.com/investplace/quote?Symbol=SNE
  14. Windows 8 is just rolling out: http://investorplace.com/2012/11/is-microsoft-snowing-us-on-windows-8-sales/
  15. 2013 will be the year that RIMM either recovers or dies: http://investorplace.com/2012/11/is-rimm-still-a-buying-opportunity/
  16. tablet market will continue to be hot: http://investorplace.com/2012/11/wild-west-of-tablets-which-will-succeed/
  17. Mobile payments have been a mess: http://investorplace.com/2012/11/google-wallet-goes-plastic-but-why/
  18. BYOD devices: http://investorplace.com/2012/12/byod-3-companies-betting-on-dual-identity/
  19. It’s a huge and largely untapped market: http://investorplace.com/2012/08/apple-shocker-it-is-an-also-ran-in-china/
  20. Made in USA.: http://investorplace.com/2012/12/will-apple-get-a-made-in-the-usa-boost/
  21. undercuts paid content services from some of the network providers: http://investorplace.com/2012/12/trouble-is-looming-for-cable-tv-companies/
  22. specter of Facebook: http://investorplace.com/ipo-playbook/can-the-ipo-market-be-saved-fb-grpn-znga/
  23. or will courtrooms continue to be their chosen battleground: http://investorplace.com/2012/10/trouble-ahead-for-techs-patent-crazy-giants/

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