The Zacks Analyst Blog Highlights: Apple, Facebook, Microsoft and Google

For Immediate Release

Chicago, IL - September 29, 2015 - announces the list of stocks featured in the Analyst Blog. Every day the Zacks Equity Research analysts discuss the latest news and events impacting stocks and the financial markets. Stocks recently featured in the blog include the Apple ( AAPL ), Facebook ( FB ), Microsoft ( MSFT ) and Google ( GOOGL ).

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Here are highlights from Monday's Analyst Blog:

Technology Stock Roundup

Last week was replete with big announcements and rumors from Apple ( AAPL ), Facebook ( FB ) and Microsoft ( MSFT ) dotted with lingering regulatory concerns for Google ( GOOGL ).

Will Apple Auto Beat Google to the Market?

Wall Street has been looking for a car from both Apple and Google given that these are the two tech giants with the adequate resources. But despite the fact that both have been hiring engineers and other personnel, the auto industry hasn't taken them seriously. There are a lot of complicated logistics involved that makes it a difficult business to branch into and at the end, it doesn't even generate strong margins, this doesn't appear to be an area highly profitable tech giants would be interested in.

But Google is already testing its self-driving car, and Apple has an electric car in the works though the first iteration won't be self-driven, according to a WSJ report/rumor citing "people familiar with the matter." Google could be planning to use them for delivery, taxi services, etc. since it seems to be interested in everything. But Apple's plans aren't clear at all, especially since the demand for electric cars is uncertain.

For now, all we know is, WSJ says that Apple is tripling the headcount for Project Titan (its car project) from the current 600 to meet a 2019 deadline. Google expects to launch in 2020.

Facebook: Much Ado About VR

At the virtual reality (VR) conference in LA last week, Facebook started off by enabling 360 degree viewing on the social networking platform. It was joined by Walt Disney, GoPro, Discovery and similar others, which uploaded 360 degree videos (captured using a camera set covering all angles). This enables Facebook users to decide their angle of choice when watching these videos.

This was followed by an announcement from Samsung, which along with Occulus (acquired by Facebook in 2014 for $2 billion) announced a new Gear VR headset at $99 to work with all of Samsung's latest devices. But what really made this announcement exciting was partnerships with Twentieth Century Fox and Lions Gate Entertainment to bring popular content like Hunger Games and Pulp Fiction to the Gear headset. Netflix already launched an app with Hulu and Vimeo slated for later this year as is Microsoft's Minecraft. Phew!

Office 2016: Brave New World or Old Wine in New Bottles?

On the face of it, nothing much has changed because Word and Excel still work like a dream. But Microsoft has doubled down on collaboration this time and its assistant is right there to execute your command.

So in the Excel you can easily locate what you need by typing into the "Tell me" box at the top. But Microsoft is determined to make things cloud-dependent, which is why it doesn't give you a full-service offline version. The online version eliminates the need to send emails (since the spreadsheet when saved in the cloud may be shared with the click of a button according to the preferences you set). With Word it's done more or less the same thing except that there's greater context to searches (basically Bing integration). Clicking on "Define" describes the word and clicking on "Smart Lookup" brings context from Bing images and web search that can be copy pasted into the text itself.

The best part is, it is truly cross platform and Skype-integrated enabling you to talk over any item while you're both looking at it and irrespective of whether you're using iOS, Android or Windows. Google offers some of these things, but it doesn't have Skype, nor Microsoft's installed base. This could be huge. Certainly no old wine.

FranceWill Enforce RTBF Laws

Google is standing by its policy of "respectfully disagreeing" with French authorities about the Frenchman's right to have desired pages removed permanently from all Google properties and not only those with European extensions. Publishers of removed articles have reportedly objected to their stories being removed in some cases and the Index on Censorship has earlier said that asking a search engine to remove links was "akin to marching into a library and forcing it to pulp books."

The exact problem is not very clear from media reports, i.e., whether the French authority is objecting to the article being seen by anyone all over the world or by French/European citizens only. In the latter case, there might be a technological solution to the problem. Otherwise, it's just a question of strong-arming a commercial operator by threatening to penalize it financially.

The right to be forgotten opposes the right to information, but is there a middle line? And what might that be? And who is to determine what is "inadequate, irrelevant, no longer relevant, excessive and not in the public interest" and with respect to who? Because that is what Google is expected to determine when processing requests for the "right to be forgotten."

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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