There have been a number of noteworthy developments in the technology space recently. They will likely have a material impact on the companies in the sector and the markets they serve.
Apple’s New iPad
Apple (AAPL) unveiled its new iPad today at a media event in San Francisco. This new offering has several advantages over its predecessor, the iPad 2. The new iPad boasts a screen with significantly higher resolution than the iPad 2. This display offers detailed images and can show movies in high definition. The new iPad also has a more powerful processor (an A5X processor with quad-core graphics). The high-end model will be able to operate on a high-speed 4G network. The device will be available in several models, starting in mid-March. The basic models have 16, 32, and 64 gigabytes of internal memory, and cost between $499 and $699. The models that offer 4G connections will range from $629 and $829 in price. This new iPad should help ensure that Apple remains at the forefront of the tablet computer market. iPad sales have grown briskly since the device was first introduced in 2010. The company has dominated this market since that time, though other competitors have emerged.
Facebook’s Premium Ads
Social-networking behemoth Facebook is introducing new ways for businesses to reach its user base. “Premium on Facebook” ads will allow marketers to expand their presence on the social network. Advertisers would pay for a video, coupon, or other message to appear on the homepages, newsfeeds, and log-out screens of Facebook users. The company is looking to get advertisers to spend money on its site, instead of only taking advantage of free marketing opportunities. Moreover, this initiative will allow advertisers to target Facebook users logging on from mobile devices.
Premium advertisements will allow Facebook to increase revenue, especially from larger, brand-name companies. Facebook is competing with other Internet companies, including Google (GOOG) and Yahoo! (YHOO), in the online advertising realm. With its upcoming IPO, Facebook (which depended on advertising for the vast majority of its revenue in 2011) is looking to attract large advertisers to help fuel future growth.
Zynga’s New Game Service
Online video-game provider Zynga (ZNGA) is introducing a service that will allow players to enjoy video games on its own Web site, rather than playing on Facebook. A retooled site will be introduced later in the month. This should make it easier for players to quickly access content, along with message boards and live chatting. A number of the company’s top games will be featured on the site, including Words with Friends and CityVille. The site will also have games created by other developers.
Zynga currently generates the vast majority of its revenue from Facebook. This move appears to be intended to allow Zynga to branch out, and establish a closer relationship with gamers. It remains to be seen if this will end up driving traffic away from Facebook. Still, the Zynga Platform will remain linked to Facebook, and users will need to login using their Facebook IDs.
Yelp’s Initial Public Offering
Online-reviewer Yelp (YELP) has completed its initial public offering. The company sold just over 7 million shares priced at $15 per share, netting proceeds close to $100 million after expenses. The stock opened Friday trading around $24 per share, but has retreated somewhat since then.
Yelp is most commonly known for restaurant reviews, but the site also has reviews of many other kinds of establishments, including churches, hospitals, and hotels. The company makes money by selling advertisements, most of which come from local businesses that its users review. Yelp experienced impressive top-line growth in 2011, but has yet to turn a profit. Much of its ad revenues are offset by sales and marketing expenses, and many of the small businesses that purchase ads on its site have constrained advertising budgets. Moreover, the company operates in an intensely competitive and dynamic environment. Competitors include Groupon (GRPN), Open Table (OPEN), and Zagat, which is owned by Google.
Potential investors are advised to tread carefully here, as stocks without much trading history are difficult to value. Impressive top-line growth prospects may well be baked into the share price. The stock prices of such companies can decline significantly should unforeseen obstacles emerge or if growth prospects dim.
At the time of this article’s writing, the author did not have positions in any of the companies mentioned.