Working for IBM (NYSE: IBM) was the dream of many students in my business school. A job with the world's leading high-tech company was far and away the most popular goal of both the graduate and undergraduate students. The talk was always very positive about the disciplined environment, the uniform of a dark suit, crisp white shirt, sober looking tie, the respect from others, and of course the relatively high pay for their sales representatives. When this company would visit the campus for career day interviews, it was insane. Everyone jockeyed to look their best and get an interview.
The world changed on August 12, 1981; the company announced the personal computer with the unheard-of price tag of $1,565. Just twenty years earlier, machines with similar capabilities could cost millions of dollars, demanded an entire office building floor, and required a large staff to maintain.
This initial mass-produced PC was powered by an Intel 8088 microprocessor running at speeds measured in millionths of a second. It was the size of a portable typewriter and contained 40K of read-only memory and 16K of user memory, as well as a built-in speaker for creating sounds. Its five expansion slots could be used to connect such features as expanded memory, display and printing units, and game "paddles."
Although this $158 billion market-cap bruiser remains one the Dow's 30 stocks, it is no longer known as an innovator. In fact, many investors consider IBM to be a washed-up giant, worthwhile only for to its 3%-plus dividend and index credentials.
But that's all about to change. IBM is repositioning itself on the cutting-edge, with plans to have five life-changing innovations released within the next five years. Internally called 5 in 5, this initiative will not only change our lives, but it may also supercharge the share price over the same time frame.
Innovation 1: Making The Invisible Visible
IBM plans to make the invisible visible by focusing artificial intelligence on cognitive health. The goal is to analyze physical signals such as speech patterns to reveal neurological diseases such as Alzheimer's. This will enable medical professionals to take pre-emptive measures to help treat diseases before the more easily observable visible symptoms arise.
Innovation 2: Superhero Vision
The company is also using AI to create hyper-powerful imaging devices. Just like the comic book heroes, the technology will help humans see widely beyond the domain of visible light by combining multiple bands of the electromagnetic spectrum. Most interestingly from the investor and consumer point of view, these devices will be portable, affordable, and accessible to everyone.
Innovation 3: The Macroscope
IBM's Macroscrope project will organize and quantify vast and complex data gathered by billions of devices within the range of our vision and understanding. It is a system of software and algorithms to bring all of Earth's complex data together.
Simply stated, this tool or system will digitize the physical world by gathering trillions of data points produced by the internet of things. IBM states that there are already more than six billion connected devices generating tens of exabytes (billion gigabytes) of data per month, with a growth rate of more than 30% per year.
Innovation 4: Medical Lab On A Chip
This device, like Star Trek's medical tricorder, would be a portable and capable of diagnosing any disease. However, IBM's goal is to shrink the system down to a single silicon chip that would contain all of the processes necessary to analyze an illness that would today require a full-scale biochemistry lab. IBM scientists are developing lab-on-a-chip nanotechnology that can separate and isolate bioparticles down to 20 nanometers in diameter, a scale that gives access to DNA, viruses, and exosomes.
Innovation 5: Real-Time Pollution Detection
Imagine being able to instantly know that there is a leak in a pipeline or energy plant. IBM is developing affordable sensing technologies that can be deployed near natural gas extraction wells, around storage facilities, and along distribution pipelines will enable the industry to pinpoint invisible leaks in real time. This technology has the potential to work wonders in helping to save the environment.
Risks To Consider: IBM has high goals and the resources to reach them. However, it remains speculative what objectives will be achieved and in what time frame. Investors need to understand that every stock market investment has risk no matter how seductive it appears.
Action To Take: Enter long under $180.00 per share with an upside target of $220.00. Initial stops are suggested at $162.50 per share.