With new antennas, Qualcomm signals 5G smartphones are coming “soon”

With new antennas, Qualcomm signals 5G smartphones are coming “soon”

We’re also looking for confirming data points for our investment themes, especially those that are poised to disrupt existing business models. In the case of 5G mobile technology, one of the meaningful questions is when we will see commercial deployments of both 5G networks and 5G devices. After all, a 5G network is pretty hard for AT&T or Verizon to monetize unless it has a service offering and that hinges on having 5G devices to deploy on its 5G network.

Today’s news that Qualcomm is shipping 5G antennas to its customers for testing and stands ready for “large-scale commercialization” likely means 5G devices are just quarters away instead of years away. As we move through 2Q 2018 earnings season, we’ll look for more timing signals for the launch of commercial 5G networks and devices.

 

Qualcomm today unveiled what it says is the world’s “first fully-integrated 5G NR mmWave and sub-6 GHz RF modules for smartphones and other mobile devices.” These are the QTM052 mmWave antenna module family and the QPM56xx sub-6 GHz radio frequency (RF) module, and they’ll pair with the company’s previously announced Snapdragon X50 5G modem — making next-gen phone networks a reality very soon.

If you recall, a bunch of major smartphone makers, including Samsung, LG, Sony, HTC and Xiaomi already said they’ll be working with Qualcomm, and most of them commited to delivering X50-powered phones by the first half of 2019. Those devices will likely use the new antenna and RF modules announced today. Qualcomm told Engadget it has already shipped samples out to its device partners, and will be working with them to figure out the best placement to minimize signal interference due to hand blocking.

According to the company’s statement, “a working mobile mmWave solution … was previously thought unattainable.” Now, however, Qualcomm said it is “ready for large scale commercialization,” which means we are that much closer to seeing 5G devices in the real world soon.

Source: Qualcomm’s 5G antennas are primed for next year’s phones

WEEKLY ISSUE: CES 2018 Delivers for the Tematica Investing Select List

WEEKLY ISSUE: CES 2018 Delivers for the Tematica Investing Select List

Welcome to this week’s issue of Tematica Investing, where we leverage our proprietary thematic lens to invest in well-positioned companies when it comes to our investment themes.

Over the last week, we’ve seen one of the best starts to a new trading year in some time, and the Tematica Investing Select List has been benefitted from not only that start but news being made at the currently occurring annual technology tradeshow better known as CES 2018. I’ll recap some of the meaningful announcements below in a minute, but the impact of those results have moved our positions in Universal Display (OLED), Applied Materials (AMAT), Nokia (NOK) and AXT Inc. (AXTI) higher over the last week.

These moves and the causes behind them have me once again revisiting my price targets on OLED and AMAT shares to the upside. Confirming data will likely be had in the coming days as 4Q 2017 earnings begin in earnest next Tuesday. As I discussed in this week’s Monday Morning Kickoff, the likely scenario is we see U.S. listed companies offer an upbeat outlook and use the benefit to be had from tax reform to boost 2018 EPS expectations. On an annual basis, those tax reform related benefits should more than outweigh the cold snap weather and winter storm Grayson disruptions that we have likely encountered with restaurant, retail and construction companies. This means that at least in the near-term investors will need to be choosey, hwoever, the net effect should see the stock market melt higher, especially if more Wall Street strategists boost their price targets for the S&P 500, the proxy for the overall U.S. stock market. I expect this to be the likely scenario.

My perspective that I laid our in this week’s Monday Morning Kickoff remains – I continue to suspect expectations could be getting ahead of themselves given the recent climb in consumer debt levels and continued growth in the lack of qualified workers that could hamstring business investment in the coming months despite lower taxes. The strategy that we’ll follow near term is to listen to the data and look for opportunities – companies at prices that offer a skewed risk-to-reward proposition that is in our favor. It has been that discipline married with Tematica’s thematic lens that has steered us clear of such 2017 disasters as GoPro (GPRO) and Blue Apron (APRN).

 

Watching the Fed minutes this afternoon

Later today, we will receive the next iteration of the Fed’s FOMC meeting minutes. While we know the policy impact from the December meeting, I’ll be interested in seeing more on to what degree the Fed factored in tax reform into its GDP forecasts, and what it sees as some of the swing factors to watch.

 

A first pass from CES 2018

While CES 2018, the annual technology trade show held in Las Vegas that features more than 4,000 exhibitors, officially got underway yesterday, we’ve received a number of announcements in the last few days that have sent tech shares in general, and several of our holdings, higher.

Starting with TVs, which are one of the more high-profile items to kick off the annual gathering, we are starting to see artificial intelligence (AI) embedded into these devices. For example, is adding both Alphabet’s (GOOGL) Google Assistant and Amazon’s (AMZN) Alexa to its latest 4K OLED and Super UHD LCD TV lineup. But TVs aren’t the only things that will embed AI in the coming year – yesterday it was announced by Moen that its cloud-based, Wi-Fi enabled shower system “U by Moen” will add support for Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa AI assistants in the first half of 2018.

Outside of Moen, both Kohler and Whirlpool (WHR) are also bringing voice activation capabilities to their smart kitchen, bath and appliance products. No stranger to voice assistants in its products, Whirlpool is going one step further as the appliances it is debuting at CES this year can be controlled using Alexa or Google Assistant. Per Whirlpool, its offering includes “dishwashers that can be set and started remotely by voice, refrigerators that homeowners can change temperature settings on using a voice assistant, and washing machines that let the user check with Alexa to see how much time is left on a cycle.”

We’re also seeing connectivity make its way into toothbrushes courtesy of Colgate’s (CL) Smart Electronic Toothbrush uses Apple ResearchKit with the user’s permission to crowdsource toothbrushing data so the company can “anticipate the future of oral care.”

This is a first pass at the CES news flow and I’ll have more over the coming days, so be sure to check back at TematicaInvesting.com for those thoughts.

Stepping back we find the rising number of connected devices – be they through voice assistants, smartphones or other – driving incremental demand for RF semiconductors. This, in turn, bodes very well for incremental substrate demand for AXT’s (AXTI), the basic building block for RF semiconductors from the likes of Skyworks Solutions (SWKS), Qorvo (QRVO) and others.

That is poised to drive semiconductor manufacturing utilization rates higher and bodes well for incremental orders at semi-cap company Applied Materials (AMAT), which is also benefitting from the ramp in organic light emitting diode display demand I noted above. With AMAT shares trading at just 13.5x on expected 2018 earnings, I’m once again reviewing my $65 price target with an upward bias.

I also see Amazon making a significant “land grab” with its Alexa voice assistant, which, in our view, bodes very well for continued growth in Amazon’s Prime membership and the company capturing consumer wallet share.

  • We continue to rate AXT Inc. (AXTI) shares a Buy at current levels and our price target remains $11.
  • We continue to rate Applied Materials (AMAT) shares a Buy at current levels and our price target remains $65.
  • We continue to have a Buy on Amazon (AMZN) shares, and our price target remains $1,400.

 

 

SPECIAL ALERT – Adding Nokia shares to the Tematica Select List

SPECIAL ALERT – Adding Nokia shares to the Tematica Select List

 

  • We are issuing a Buy on  Nokia Corp. (NOK) shares with an $8.50 price target.

  • At this time, there is no recommended stop-loss level and we would look to scale into the shares aggressively near $5.50.

 

Yes, you are reading that correctly. After recently adding Nokia Corp. (NOK) shares to the Contender List, we are now adding them to the Tematica Select List given continued progress in its higher margin, intellectual property (IP) business, Nokia Technologies. We’ve seen the power of this Asset-Lite Business Model investment theme before with Qualcomm (QCOM) and InterDigital (IDCC) and it has the power to not only transform Nokia, but deliver EPS  upside relative to expectations.

To jog people’s memory, in the most recent quarter the Nokia Technologies division accounted for 7% of Nokia’s overall revenue, but delivered 37% of operating profit. To be clear, we like the operating leverage in this business. In the coming quarters, we also expect Nokia to benefit from continued wireless infrastructure buildout from both existing 3G and 4G networks as well as eventual deployments on 5G networks.

 

So why add NOK shares to the Select List now?

Early this morning it was announced Nokia won an arbitration battle against LG Electronics, which follows recent deals with Samsung, Apple (AAPL) and Xiaomi Electronics, a Chinese smartphone company. From LG Nokia will receive both a one-time payment, which was not disclosed, as well as recurring revenue that is expected to be in the realm of $275-$300 million. This is a meaningful bump to Nokia’s IP, which had sales of 616 million euros in the first half of 2017, and gives far more comfort in the likelihood of the company hitting 2018 EPS expectations of $0.37, up from this year’s consensus EPS of $0.30. Also too, as Nokia continues to stack up licensees, it becomes increasingly easier to win over its remaining IP targets.

Our price target on Nokia shares is $8.50, which equates to 23x expected 2018 EPS or 1.0 on a price to earnings growth ratio (PEG) basis using the company EPS growth over the 2016-2018 time frame. Given the degree of upside to be had, we are adding NOK shares to the Select List with Buy. At this time, there is no recommended stop-loss level and we would look to scale into the shares aggressively near $5.50.

Over the coming quarters, we expect to see more movement in the company’s wireless infrastructure business as 5G moves from testing and beta to deployment. With Nokia Technologies, the company has booked some impressive wins, and it can turn its attention to Huawei, which according to data compiled by IDC is now the third largest smartphone vendor behind Samsung and Apple. Also, as Apple brings augmented reality into the mainstream with its new iPhone models and does the same with health applications with Apple Watch, this opens the door for other technology licensing opportunities at Nokia given its portfolio of connected health, augment and virtual reality as well as other technologies. What this will require is patience with the shares, but given we are not only thematic investors but ones that have a longer than the herd time horizon that’s just fine with us.

 

 

Voice Recognition Technology Hears Whispers of M&A

Voice Recognition Technology Hears Whispers of M&A

Earlier this month we had CES 2017 in Las Vegas, a techie’s mecca of new whiz-bang products set to hit the market, in some cases later this year, but in others in 2018 and beyond. A person tracking the CES trade shows over the years likely remembers the changes in inputs from clunky keyboards and standalone number pads to rollerball driven mice to laser based ones, which gave way to trackpads and touchscreen technology. Among the sea of announcements this year, there were a number that focused on one aspect of our Disruptive Technology investing theme that is shaping up to be the next big change in interface technology — voice recognition technology.

Over the years, there have been a number of fits and starts with voice technology dating all the way back to 1992 when Apple’s (AAPL) own “Casper” voice recognition system that then-CEO John Sculley debuted on “Good Morning America.” As the years have gone by and the technology has been further refined, we’ve seen more uses for voice recognition technology in a variety of applications and environments ranging from medical offices to interacting with a car’s infotainment system. As far back as 2004, Honda Motor’s (HMC) third generation Acura TL sported an Alpine-designed navigation system that accepted voice commands. No need to press the touchscreen while driving, just use voice commands, (at least that was the dream — but for those of us that tried to change the radio station and ended up switching the entire system over to Spanish, it wasn’t so useful!)

More recently with Siri from Apple, Cortana from Microsoft (MSFT), Google Assistant from Alphabet (GOOGL) and Alexa from Amazon (AMZN) we’ve seen voice recognition technology hit the tipping point. Each of those has come to the forefront in products such as the Amazon Echo and Google Home that house these virtual digital assistants (VDAs), but for now, one of the largest consumer-facing markets for voice interface technology has been the smartphone. Coming into 2016, market research and consulting firm Parks Associates found that nearly 40 percent of all smartphone owners use some sort of voice recognition software such as Siri or Google Now.

In 2016, the up and comer was Amazon, as sales of its Echo devices were up 9x year over year this past holiday season and “millions of Alexa devices sold worldwide this year.” If you’re a user of Amazon Echo like we are, then you know that each week more capabilities are being added to the Alexa app such as ordering a pizza from Dominos (DPZ), calling for an Uber, checking sports scores, shopping with your Amazon Prime account, hearing the local weather forecast and getting the latest news or perhaps some new cocktail recipes.

Not resting on its laurels, Amazon continues to expand Echo’s capabilities and announced that Prime members can voice-order their next meal through Amazon Restaurants on their Alexa-enabled devices including the Amazon Echo and Echo Dot. Once an order is placed, Amazon delivery partners deliver the food in one hour or less. Pretty cool so long as you have Amazon Restaurants operating in and around where you live. We’d point out that since you’re paying with your Prime account, which has a credit card on file, this also expands Amazon’s role in our Cashless Consumption investment theme as does Prime Now which lets Prime members in cities in which the service is available get deliveries in under two hours from Amazon as well as from local participating stores.

But we digress…

Virtual digital assistants cut across more than just smartphones and devices like Amazon Echo and the Google Home. According to a new report from market intelligence firm Tractica, while smartphone-based consumer VDAs are currently the best-known offerings, virtual assistant technologies are also beginning to emerge within other device types including smart watches, fitness trackers, PCs, smart home systems, and automobiles – hopefully, this time not switching us into Spanish.

We saw just that at CES 2017 with some landscape changing announcements for VDAs such as withAlphabet that had several announcements surrounding its Google Home product, including integration into upcoming Hyundai and Chrysler models; and acquiring Limes Audio, which focuses on voice communication systems, and will likely be additive to the company’s Google Home, Hangouts and other products. Microsoft also scored a win for Cortana with Nissan.

While those wins were impressive, the big VDA winner at CES was Amazon as it significantly expanded its Alexa footprint on deals with LG, Dish Network (DISH), Whirlpool (WHR), Huawei and Ford (F). In doing so Amazon has outflanked Alphabet, Microsoft and even Apple in the digital assistant market, but then who doesn’t find Siri’s utility subpar? To us, that’s another leg to the Amazon stool that offers more support to the share alongside the digital shopping/services, content, and Amazon Web Services businesses.

To be fair, Apple originally did not license out its Siri technology. It was only in June 2016 that Apple announced it would open the code behind Siri to third-party developers through an API, giving outside apps the ability to activate from Siri’s voice commands, and potentially endowing Siri with a wide range of new skills and datasets, potentially making a mistake similar to the one that originally cost Apple the Operating System market to Microsoft. Amazon, on the other hand, has been eager to bring other offerings onto its Alexa platform.

Tractica forecasts that unique active consumer VDA users will grow from 390 million in 2015 to a whopping 1.8 billion worldwide by the end of 2021 – Juaquin Phoenix’s Her is closer than you’d think!  During the same period, unique active enterprise VDA users will rise from 155 million in 2015 to 843 million by 2021.  The market intelligence firm forecasts that total VDA revenue will grow from $1.6 billion in 2015 to $15.8 billion in 2021.

In the past when we’ve seen new interface technologies come to market and move past their tipping point, we tended to see slowing demand for the older input modalities. Case in point, a new report from Technavio forecasts compound annual growth of just 3.63 percent for the global computing mouse market between 2016-2020. By comparison, Global Industry Analysts (GIA) expects the global market for multi-touch screens to reach $8 billion by 2020 up from $3.5 billion in 2013, driven by a combination of mobile computing and smart computing devices. For those who are less than fond of doing time calculations, that equates to a compound annual growth rate of 11 percent. We’d also point out that’s roughly half the expected VDA market in 2021.

One potential wrinkle in that forecast is the impact of VDAs. Per eMarketer, 31 percent of 14-17-year-olds and 23 percent of 18-34-year-olds regularly use a VDA.

Putting these two together, we could see slower growth for touch-based interfaces should VDA adoption take off. Looking at the recent wins by Amazon and Google, factoring in that Apple and Comcast (CMCSA) are favoring voice technology in Apple TV and XFINITY TV and growth in the smartphone market is stalling, there is reason to think the GIA forecast could be a tad robust, especially in the outer years.

Turning our investing gaze to companies that could be vulnerable should the GIA forecast prove to be somewhat aggressive, we find Synaptics (SYNA), whose tag line is “advancing the human interface,” and the “human machine interface” company that is Alps. Both of these companies compete in the smartphone, wearables, smart home, access control, automotive and healthcare markets — the very same markets that are ripe for voice technology adoption.

From a strategic and thematic perspective, one could see the logic in Synaptics and Alps looking to shore up their market position and customer base by expanding their technology offering to include voice interface. Given the head start by Apple, Alphabet, Microsoft, and Facebook, while Synaptics and Alps could toil away on “made here” voice technology efforts, the time-to-market constraints would make acquiring a voice technology company far more practical.

Here’s the thing, we’ve already seen Alphabet acquire Limes Audio to improve its voice recognition capabilities. As anyone who has used Apple’s Siri knows, it’s far from perfect in voice recognition and voice to text. In our view, this means larger players could be sniffing around voice technology companies in the hopes of making their VDAs even smarter.

In many respects we’ve seen this before whenever a new disruptive technology takes hold alongside a new market opportunity — it pretty much resembles a game of M&A musical chairs as companies look to improve their competitive position. In our view, this means companies like Nuance Communications (NUAN), VoiceBox, SoundHound, and MindMeld among other voice technology companies could be in high demand.

Disclosure: Nuance Communications (NUAN) shares are on the Tematica Select List. Both Nuance Communications and Synaptics, Inc. (SYNA) reside in Tematica’s Thematic Index.

Android’s Customizability Makes Quadrooter and Other Safety Patches a Challenge

Android’s Customizability Makes Quadrooter and Other Safety Patches a Challenge

The more capabilities incorporated into smartphones and other devices means increasingly complex software under the hood to enable them. Much like Microsoft’s Windows that by necessity needed to be open to so many devices (mice, keyboards, monitors, game controllers, printers, scanners and the like), Android’s fragmented ecosystem with nearly every smartphone manufacturer customizing the OS means each software patch needs to be tweaked as well. Score one for the closed Apple iPhone ecosystem.

Another big security flaw in Android highlights just how messed up the Google ecosystem still is when it comes to security. This one, known as Quadrooter, was disclosed in recent days by security software maker Check Point.

Quadrooter affects a whole host of top-end Android devices running one of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon chips.That means hundreds of millions or even a billion devices could be at risk, including top-end models such as the Samsung Galaxy S7, HTC 10 and LG G5 and even Google’s latest Nexus devices and security-focused devices like BlackBerry’s Priv and Silent Circle’s Blackphone.

Source: A new flaw puts nearly a billion phones at risk and shows Android security is still a patchwork mess