March 21, 2000: $60.10
March 21, 2012: $66.43
Qualcomm (QCOM) is perhaps the most interesting tech-stock story of this group. Founded in 1985, it muddled through the 1990s and then exploded during the dot-com days, reaching a split-adjusted price of almost $90 in 1999. It then suffered a gut-wrenching ride down to $15 per share in the next three years.
In the mid-2000s, however, Qualcomm was back in fashion as the cellphone became ubiquitous worldwide. The rise of Web-enabled smartphones, however, began to make the San Diego company seem like a tech dinosaur again.
Now, Qualcomm has forged a highly lucrative contract with Apple that puts its proprietary CDMA (code division multiple access) wireless technology into the iconic iPhone. That has taken the stock from dead money and put it back into growth mode, with Apple accounting for nearly 40% of the revenue growth reported by Qualcomm between fiscal years 2010 and 2011.
Will this momentum last? It seems as if it could. Also, the company is worth $100 billion and is sitting on an $11.5 billion pile of cash, which should provide shareholders with some peace of mind.
March 21, 2000: $67.33
March 21, 2012: $71.24
SAP (SAP) is a strange entry on this list. It isn't a Nasdaq-listed stock. It's not a Silicon Valley company (it's headquartered in Germany). And it is not your typical gadget-oriented or consumer-focused tech company.
But when it comes to tech successes of the past 10 years, this company is a big one. SAP makes its money helping companies manage their human resources and customer relationships. As technology has boosted business productivity, SAP has been at the forefront of the trend.
Does SAP have what it takes to evolve and thrive in the next era of digital business solutions? Companies like Salesforce.com (CRM) have ramped up competition via "cloud computing" options, and enterprise software is a sticky business to be in when cost-conscious corporations are reluctant to make big capital expenditures.
However, SAP seems to be revved up and ready for the future. The stock has climbed 42% in the past six months, and the company has logged eight straight quarters of year-over-year revenue gains.
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing
March 21, 2000: $15.36
March 21, 2012: $15.21
Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing (TSM) is the world's largest independent semiconductor foundry. In many ways, it's more of a manufacturer than a technology company; it's essentially a parts supplier to electronics companies, and the means of production for companies like Apple that come up with great ideas and just need someone to do the dirty work.
But while it's not very innovative in its own right, the company benefits from steadily increasing demand for semiconductors worldwide.
So where does Taiwan Semiconductor go from here? It's true that organic growth exists if the economy continues to mend and technology continues its steady march into all corners of the home and office. However, the bottom line is that Taiwan Semi relies heavily on contracts with third parties that have the flashy gadgets and great ideas. If it's a supplier to the iPhone 5 and iPhone 6 in the years ahead, that's good news for the company. If it's left out, though, investors will be left out, too.
There's no doubt that shares have momentum right now. But don't forget that while revenue is tracking $15.8 billion for the current fiscal year, it bottomed out at under $9 billion in fiscal 2009 because of the economic downturn and resulting chip glut. This is very much a cyclical stock, so investors should be wary of buying at current levels, near the stock's 12-year high.
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