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Dana Blankenhorn http://www.danablankenhorn.com has been a business journalist since 1978, and a futurist all his life.He warned about the coming Houston oil collapse in 1979. He began making a living on the Internet in 1985. He launched the first e-commerce daily for CMP in 1994, warned of the... More
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  • AOL, Yahoo Need To Just Change Names

    There are two tech companies I write about that are guaranteed not to draw an audience, but which should.

    These are AOL (NYSE:AOL) and Yahoo (NASDAQ:YHOO).

    I wrote a positive story about AOL just last week, suggesting that Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) had made what could be the first move toward buying them, and fewer than 1,000 people read it.

    They don't want to hear that Tim Armstrong has transformed the company, using its remaining dial-up revenue to create a growth machine that grew revenuer 13% during the December quarter and brought over 8% of it to the net income line.

    They don't want to hear about its video operations, about its video ad shop or web series. They see the name, they think dial-up, they may think The Huffington Post, and they figure it can't possibly be any good. Please don't tell them that the company had another beat on earnings this morning, earning 34 cents per share on $625 million in revenue, led by those video ads. Please don't tell them that year-over-year growth is coming in at 12%. That would break their hearts.

    The same is true of Yahoo. Marissa Mayer has created some organic, top-line growth, 8% year-over-year. They don't want to hear about the buy rating from MKM Partners, which notes that mobile is now delivering 33% of the company's revenue, up 22% from a year ago. After re-negotiations with Microsoft the company is now free to pursue new ways to monetize that mobile traffic. I wrote about this just last month but no one read it.

    No, when people think Yahoo they think of the 1990s search engine, they may think of Alibaba, and they think of a dysfunctional board. They think of yesterday's Yahoo, which is nothing like today's company.

    Thus, some name changes might be in order. AOL calls its main content sites The Brand Group. That might make a good name for the company as a whole. Wouldn't you read stories about a growing company called The Brand Group -- the ticker symbol TBG is available on the New York Stock Exchange.

    Yahoo should drop the 1990s references entirely. It could just go by Y. Y means young, y means yay. How about Y! - with an exclamation point. Why not?

    If you have been busy hating on AOL since the start of 2013 because you don't like the name you've missed a gain of 34%. If you have been doing the same with Yahoo you have missed a gain of 120%, although I'll admit most of that came as a result of the Alibaba stake.

    Both of these companies are real Internet companies with real Internet revenues and real Internet niches - AOL in video, Yahoo in mobile. Both are worth your consideration, but unless I miss my guess you still won't read this story because you just hate the names.

    But if I push The Brand Group and Y! maybe you will at least read the pitch, and maybe then you will make some money.

    Tags: AOL, YHOO, long-ideas
    May 08 12:33 PM | Link | 3 Comments
  • Apple Diamond Platinum Service Launches

    Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), having made some inroads into the high-end market with the $10,000 Apple Watch Edition, today announced its entry into even higher-end luxury with Apple Diamond Platinum Service.

    CEO Tim Cook explained on a hastily-called conference call that Apple Diamond Platinum only starts with products. It also provides a higher level of service than any other technology company platform has ever sought to deliver, to the most discerning customers in the world.

    Any family with a net worth of $1 billion or more can tithe $100 million into a special account for Apple Diamond Platinum service. Under the plan, the customer's homes, cars, kids, pets and wrists will all be fitted with Apple equipment, and the customer will be given quick service response on any call, no matter how strange it may appear. "There are no stupid questions," as senior vice president of design Jony Ive explained, "only stupid people who ask questions."

    With Apple Diamond Platinum Service Apple WiFi at speeds to 1 Gigabit/second will fill your home and office, tailored to extend only to the walls and then stop. Mac Pros will be in every office, MacBooks in every living room, Apple TVs will connect to each set, the latest iPhone will be in every pocket and Apple Edition Watches will adorn every wrist. All these products will be replaced every six months, or on the day newer products are delivered into stores, for as long as the customer retains the account.

    When service or support is called for, one call or one e-mail to a designated Apple representative will bring one-on-one service directly to your family member. Whether you're trying to load an app, check the weather in Abu Dhabi or just get an advance look at the last season of Mad Men, Apple will be there to serve you under its Apple Diamond Platinum Service banner.

    As a mark of its intention to provide only the very best in service to the very best customers, Cook said, every Apple executive with a rank of director or above has been randomly assigned to a customer placing $100 million into an Apple account for Apple Diamond Platinum service. "That's why Jay Z missed the opening of the Tidal music service," Cook explained. "There was a kid in Abu Dhabi having trouble with his homework, and his name came up. Fortunately it was on the history of hip-hop."

    Cook concluded, "With Apple Diamond Platinum, Apple service and support open a new page. Not only will we be directly on-call for our best customers, but they will help us define the future of technology…."

    Unfortunately, the rest of Cook's statement was garbled, as we were told he had to leave the conference call abruptly. An investigation by Seeking Alpha has revealed, however, that he was actually signaled by his own Apple Diamond Platinum customer, in Shanghai, to handle a technical issue.

    While Apple keeps its Diamond Platinum account holders' names a tight secret, this reporter has discovered that it is a top executive with Alibaba (NYSE:BABA) named Yu RenJie.

    Tags: BABA, AAPL, retirement
    Mar 31 9:29 AM | Link | Comment!
  • Amazon Performance Matching Google?

    A lot of people at Seeking Alpha who are bearish on Amazon.Com (NASDAQ:AMZN) are, for some reason, bullish on Google (NASDAQ:GOOG).

    I own both stocks, and I'm bullish on both. Not necessarily over a week or a month, but over several years, I expect my return on both these companies to be strong. They have big leads in technology, they have strong managements and entrepreneurial CEOs, they drive out costs throughout the rest of the economy, and they dominate the cloud market.

    That's not the way most writers here at Seeking Alpha view them. We have Amazon's Moment of Truth May Have Arrived. We have Free Cash Flow Not What The Bulls Purport It To Be. We have Amazon Willing To Do Anything Except Profit.

    How about Google?

    A Blue Chip Gem for 2015. ModernGraham calls it undervalued. Even the bears see silver linings. What's Wrong With Google? Where Does Google Go From Here?

    Remember, neither of these stocks offers a dividend. You are depending on capital gains for profit in both.

    Both Google and Amazon are what I call technology mega-caps. Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) is in this category. So is Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT). These stocks are widely held. It takes a lot to move them in any particular direction. Microsoft has just caught up from a decade of under-performance - kudos to Satya Nadella. But do you really expect it to keep that up?

    The fact is that since February 3 the performance of Google and Amazon.com in the market has been almost identical. Even the patterns are similar - down in April, up in June, down in October. And the result? Amazon.Com is down 17.28%. Google is down 14.86%.

    What about the future? I can make a case on either in either direction.

    I can find Google increasingly running into government interference. As searching and finding data defines so many things these days, governments want to control what's found, and Google - as the chief finder - makes a handy scapegoat. On the other hand I can see Amazon is getting into all sorts of businesses. It's getting into delivery, into devices, it's getting into new markets like India. It has a lot of room to grow. It's growing so fast, it is outrunning profitability, the way tech companies did decades ago.

    It may be that, over the next year, what Google does works better than what Amazon does. It may be the reverse. I suspect it will all even out in the end. It's a case of horses for courses. I like them both, especially when they're both on sale, as they are right now.

    Dec 16 4:43 PM | Link | Comment!
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