As I indicated in my last piece, the big winner in the latest Patent War may very well be Microsoft. All of the heavy-hitters in the mobile space - Apple (AAPL), Google (GOOG) Microsoft (MSFT) and Facebook (FB) either partner or acquire engineering expertise from smart start-ups and/or niche players, to give them the necessary competitive edge. With this in mind, where else should we be looking in the mobile space? Here are five undervalued plays in the mobile arena that I believe need to be watched more closely.
Vringo, Inc. is a video sharing platform that allows users to create and share video ringtones on their phones. Vringo will soon confront Google in a patent infringement case over the claim that Google stole Vringo's patented expertise in its search advertising technology. Speculation that it will triumph has increased after it received a positive Markman ruling (which defines what language the jury will hear in deciding whether the patent has been infringed or not) in June and especially after Apple, Inc. was awarded $1.049 billion from Samsung Electronics (SSNLF.PK) in its patent infringement win last week.
Mimvi has been called the "Google of mobile search platforms." It's search engine has become the leading platform for providing search services for Mobile Apps, Mobile Content and Mobile Products across all platforms including iPhone, Android, Blackberry and Windows devices. Mimvi also offers Amazon-like recommendations under each search result it presents. Mimvi plans to generates revenue with its search results similar to the way Google generates revenue with its search results, including a product offered by Mimvi, called MimviLink, which provides a way for consumers to access mobile apps related to the content they are viewing on the web. Thus MimviLink will allow any company with a mobile app to gain greater exposure for that app, by having it matched and displayed next to pertinent web content. Mimvi's main competitors have been commanding quite a bit of attention lately. Earlier this year Chomp was taken over by Apple and in June, Quixley raised $24 million, including an investment from Google chairman Eric Schmidt's firm, Innovation Endeavors. The mobile search environment remains hot as the revenue opportunity for mobile based search and recommendation is enormous. Mimvi has become a strong takeover target, especially as it has succeeded in recruiting several top executives from Google.
Millennial Media Inc. (MM)
Millennial Media is the leading independent mobile advertising network provider. Its technology and services help developers maximize their ad revenues and gain users for their apps. The company has a proprietary technology and data platform, MYDAS, which determines, in real-time, which ad to deliver. Digital advertising solutions provider MediaMind observed earlier this week that Mobile banner ads tend to have much higher click rates than desktop display ads. While PC banner click rates amount to just 0.1%-0.4% (depending on geography), mobile click rates range between 0.42% (Asia-Pac) and 1.41% (EMEA). This comes as good news for both Google of course and Millennial Media. While Although Google commands some 70% of the mobile ad market (including search) Millennial Media remains a strong independent leader in this field and it is very attractive to advertisers who seek to avoid both Google and Apple.
Synacor, Inc. (SYNC)
Synacor's cloud-based, multi-device platform enables cable, satellite, telecom and consumer electronics companies to deliver digital entertainment, services and apps to consumers. The company obtains most of its revenues from its search and display advertising on websites it operates for its customers, which has experienced tremendous growth since its IPO in February of this year. Subscription-based services, the company's other revenue source, also saw improvement from the prior year's quarter, up almost 20% from 2Q 2011. As Synacor expands its cloud-based solutions it can expect to generate increased subscriber-based revenue from its customers. Going forward, the company's performance in three key business metrics relating to internet usage, search and advertising should be analyzed - unique visitors, search queries and advertising impressions. In the quarter recently ended, all three metrics improved over the previous year's quarter.
Mitek Systems Inc. (MITK)
Mitek Systems offers the sale and service of mobile imaging solutions and intelligent character recognition software. It provides Remote Deposit Capture, a software application that allows users to remotely deposit a check using their smartphone cameras; Mobile Photo Bill Pay, an application that allows users to pay their bills on their mobile phones; Mobile ACH Enrollment, an application that enables consumers to enroll their checking accounts as funding sources for mobile payments; and MitekONE, an enterprise platform that addresses various deposit types. As smartphones' camera pixel clarity improves Mitek is uniquely positioned to capitalize on this technology. Mitek Systems, could be an attractive takeover target at its current levels.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.