This column was originally published on RealMoney on Sept. 21 at 9:44 a.m. EDT. It's being republished as a bonus for TheStreet.com readers.
Even though I hate its consumer products, I've started buying some
Its Acrobat Reader is on 98% of all computers, so most people think of Adobe as "the Acrobat company." Anecdotally speaking, I don't know anyone who actually likes the Acrobat Reader. The program endlessly asks you to download the latest version and then takes most machines 30 seconds to load up the existing program. But that doesn't mean that the de facto standardization of Acrobat is going anywhere anytime soon.
More to the point, Adobe's other product lines, which account for the majority of its revenue, are positioned for both secular and cyclical growth in the coming years. That growth is likely to take this stock to much higher levels. Here's the story.
Adobe will be rolling out the new version of Acrobat in the next few weeks. The company recently reported a strong quarter and gave big guidance, largely because this Acrobat upgrade cycle is about to hit. That's already pretty much discounted in the stock's recent rally.
But what's not discounted in the current quote of about $37 is that the company will be rolling out a new Creative Solutions package (CS3), which includes upgrades to Photoshop, Illustrator and other programs, in early 2007.
You know what else will be hitting in early 2007? Yes, that's right, a little thing called Vista from
. Surely, I don't need to rehash my bullish view of that rollout again? Well, a great percentage of the Vista-upgraded machines will also upgrade to CS3. That's a nice cyclical dynamic to be a part of. CS3 will also be the first Creative Solutions package that will run on
platform, and there's a significant amount of pent-up demand for CS3 for Apple. Pent-up demand into a new rollout is a bullish thing.
Finally, it's all about the future of advertising and video on the Internet.
assorted versions of Flash have become a de facto standard for media-rich interactive advertisements on the Net. And despite
recent stumblings and the possibility that advertising growth on the Net will slow for a spell, there's no arguing that Net advertising is in the early stages of secular growth inside the cyclical advertising industry. Same thing with Net video -- heard about the growth of YouTube? I want to own the de facto standard that these applications are being built on. That's Adobe.
A lot of analysts expect Flash to become a standard for media-rich applications in cell phones, too. That would be gravy.
The stock isn't cheap, trading at 30-something this year's estimates and 20-something next year's. But with almost 100% gross margins, nearly 40% operating margins and a bunch of new cycles ahead of it, I think those estimates for next year are way too low.
Yup, I'm putting some capital to work in Adobe, even though I hate the Acrobat Reader.
At the time of publication, the firm in which Willard is a partner was long Adobe, Microsoft and Apple, although positions can change at any time and without notice.
Cody Willard is the manager of a hedge fund and a contributor to the
. He is also a regular guest on CNBC's
Kudlow & Company
and an adjunct professor at Seton Hall.
He earned a bachelor's degree in economics at the University of New Mexico. Willard appreciates your feedback --
to send him an email.