Now that 2012 is two-thirds over, it's already time to label it, as the Asians do. Unlike 4709, it's not the Year of the Dragon. It's more the Year of Anticipation.
Consider these items:
For more than two years, Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT), the world's biggest software company, has been ballyhooing the next Windows 8 OS and signing up companies, not just in computing, to deploy it on new platforms like smartphones. Finland's Nokia Oyj (NYSE: NOK) is banking its future on it. It's finally supposed to ship in late October.
How about Facebook (Nasdaq: FB), the No. 1 social networking site, which froze the market for initial public offerings of all kinds, not just technology, from Feb. 1 through mid-June? The mother of all Internet IPO disasters, the shares seem to have found a trading point around $19.25, or half of its May 17 pricing. Pricing, mechanics and the entire Facebook IPO still need to be explained in many venues, including the courts, but the IPO pipeline has reopened with successful debuts of Kayak Software (Nasdaq: KYAK), Palo Alto Networks (Nasdaq: PANW) and Peregrine Semiconductor (Nasdaq: PSMI).
Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) is a special case. For the second consecutive year, new-product anticipation has injured investors. Sales of new iPhones plunged 29 percent in the Cupertino, Calif., company 's most recent quarter from the prior quarter as consumers believe new models will be shipped soon, along with an iPad Mini and others. While the shares have recovered from their late July swoon, investors in many mutual funds loaded with Apple incurred a short-term hit.
How about Intel (Nasdaq: INTC), the No. 1 chipmaker, which has been upgrading its enormous plants to build the next-generation Ultrabook chips that are just starting to be sold in laptops to challenge the iPad? Shares of the Santa Clara, Calif., giant have gained 25 percent over the past year, probably an understatement of just how far the Ultrabook market will go.
These are just market examples.
In technology, some of the top events have been the first use of so-called "quantum computing" by researchers at International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE: IBM), which could revolutionize 21st century computing.
Another is NASA's successful landing of the Mars Science Laboratory, or Curiosity, on Aug. 6, a triumph of engineering and planning, sending one of the most advanced mobile labs ever built 230 million miles away to run on a cold planet. Now, the rover is on the cusp of two years of investigations. Curiosity could have the same impact as Columbus.
In the device category, the biggest success of the year may have been the successful entry of Amazon.com Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN), the No. 1 e-retailer, into the tablet market created by Apple. After CEO Jeff Bezos bet the company on the Kindle Fire, it spent enormously on development and luring new content. Last week, the share set a 52-week high of $246.87, which ought to please Bezos, too, because he owns 19.6 percent of the company.
Apple's success with the iPad, too has goaded Microsoft into the sector, with the forthcoming Surface, as well as Google (Nasdaq: GOOG), the No. 1 search engine, with the Nexus. Last week, Margaret (Meg) Whitman, CEO of Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ), said the top computer maker will re-enter the tablet sector but avoid the consumer market. Clearly the tablet is another computer revolution.
All in all, so far so good. The next third of the year will indicate what works, what doesn't and what the technology sector plans for 2013 and beyond. Truly viable chips at nano-scale? Software that can mimic in silicon what humans feel in nerves and synapses?
Thomas Edison, who founded General Electric Co. (NYSE: GE), famously quipped "genius is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration." He was right but left out the gap between the one and the other: anticipation.