There’s no doubt 2017 has been a very good year for technology and tech stocks.
Stellar performances from FANG stocks along with other names such as Broadcom Limited (NASDAQ:AVGOB) and Nvidia Corp. (NASDAQ:NVDAC) have kept Wall Street lit up like a Times Square theater marquee. This year has seen new smartphones, new electric cars, new chips and new cloud platforms. All have combined to produce some of the top stories in the news.
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Top Tech Upside Plus Some Downside
As the year ends, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPLB), Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOGC), Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZNC), Facebook (NASDAQ:FBC) and Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFTA) have a collective valuation of more than $3 trillion. Strong earnings reports have set aside investor fears about competition and the ability of these old salts to conquer new markets. The downside comes from questions raised by Russian interference in elections, how data are collected and used, and the influence big tech has on the lives of everyday global citizens. The products and platforms are loved. How long the love affair lasts may rest on tech’s ability to answer growing questions about influence.
China Tech Surges
Outside Silicon Valley, Alibaba (NYSE:BABAC) and Tencent (OTC: TCEHY) had growth rates that eclipsed any of the firms named above – except Facebook. China's 7% gross domestic product growth didn’t hurt, nor did the explosive reach of a new middle class. The tech companies themselves also played a key role. The ability they had to retain dominance in China while monetizing ads, commissions and shipping services demonstrated the willingness of these giants to compete. Tencent’s WeChat messaging app gets special recognition for its ability to monetize with the best of what the U.S. has to offer.
The iPhone X Arrives
Following especially high anticipation, September’s iPhone launch did not disappoint legions of Apple fans worldwide. The X’s edge-to-edge OLED display, front-and-back glass panels, superb dual rear cameras and advanced face-recognition system showed off Apple’s design and engineering strengths like seldom before. The near-$1,000 starting price raised eyebrows, but checkbooks came out. It helps that many Android rivals are getting close to Apple’s price point, making the cost seem more normal than it would have otherwise.
Tesla’s Model 3
Normally a car launch wouldn’t be considered a tech story. When it’s a Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLAC), the definition changes. When it’s an electric car with high level features and performance at less than $40,000, it counts big. Support (for an extra $5,000) of an advanced autonomous driving system like no other, ups the ante considerably. The Model 3 launch may change the dynamics of car ownership in a way not seen since the Model T. Assuming, of course, the company can solve battery assembly challenges and fill those more than 455,000 Model 3 reservations.
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This technology-based currency was called a bubble at $1,000. With prices that eventually approached $20,000 (currently just over $14k) and a market cap close to $300 billion, bitcoin believers still think it will replace gold as a store of value and/or act as a decentralized global currency. Whether this happens or not, bitcoin is a true phenomenon and will be a big story for 2017 no matter what.