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The tech investor Thanksgiving list
Here's a list of things investors can cheer about Thursday (a list longer than last year's).
November 26, 2003: 4:45 PM EST
By Eric Hellweg, CNN/Money Contributing Columnist

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SAN FRANCISCO (CNN/Money) - It's that season again: Time to gorge ourselves on holiday fare and slowly slip into tryptophan-induced comas. But before we visit the land of Nod, let's pause for a moment and give thanks for some things that have gone right in 2003.

For tech investors, there's a great deal more to be thankful for this year than in the last two years. I looked back at the Thanksgiving column I wrote last year, and the positive news then was sparer than the white meat left on the turkey plate the Sunday after Thanksgiving. So let's start off with the big picture and give thanks that there is more to give thanks for than in years past.

Without further ado, the 2003 Tech Investor Thanksgiving List:

The "Will He Have a Three-Peat?" Department: New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer made my list last year for his tireless efforts to expose the secretive and sometimes unsavory dealings inside Wall Street analyst houses. This year he makes it for exposing a larger scandal: the secretive and unsavory dealings inside mutual fund companies. Unfortunately, one gets the feeling that he's just getting started.

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The Mixed Blessing Department: I'm genuinely happy to see more consumer-friendly, legitimate digital music services out there, and look forward to a competitive market driving down prices (99 cents per song is still too high in my opinion) and loosening usage restrictions. But I'm upset that the music industry, which sued its customers, fought against technology, and used the government to protect its antiquated business model, may end up smelling like a rose. It's hard to root for the Kazaas of the world, but it's also hard to blame them for rising to prominence.

The Keeping Things Interesting Department: Aren't you just chomping at the bit to see what happens to the tech industry when Google goes public next year? I sure am.

The Giving the People What They Want Department, Part One: Earlier this year I wrote about the changing face of semiconductors, and how for the first time the design emphasis was not on how fast the devices could go, but on what consumer needs they addressed. It's about time. It's a remarkable shift in attitude for companies such as Intel (INTC: Research, Estimates), and the results are worth the effort. Intel has rebounded from its first loss in 15 years to show the kind of revenue growth it hasn't seen since 1996. Too bad it took a nasty economic downturn for the industry to start putting consumers -- not engineers' egos -- at the fore.

The Got to Admit It's Getting Better Department: It's hard to not be thankful that the economy appears on the mend. The long-term stability and viability of the recovery are still in question, but the markets seem headed for in-the-black years, tech stocks are experiencing a rising tide effect, and the maw is opening a bit, allowing some IPOs to squeeze through.

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The Finally Spotting the Elephant Department: Microsoft (MSFT: Research, Estimates) is at last getting serious about security (or so it appears). I've often wondered which is the bigger threat to the company -- Linux or security. The two are related, but consumers will revolt against lax security faster and more vehemently than they'll explore open-source.

The Giving the People What They Want Department, Part Two: Will you make the change now that number portability has arrived? I might. I'm not ready to give up my landline in favor of going all cellular, but I may switch service providers. Regardless of whether or not I do, it's great that consumers now have the option. For investors, I think that after a rough launch, the number-portability situation will prove a net-even for most companies.

The Benefit of Hindsight Department: I'm thankful that with the brutal burst of the tech bubble, people may be less likely to jump into the new hysteria surrounding tech-stock gains. The question facing investors now, however, is: Have we learned from history, or are we doomed to repeat it?

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