NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- With one of the world's best track records when it comes to the ability to remake itself time and time again, IBM ( IBM) celebrates its centennial on Thursday, joining a list of iconic American stocks like Colgate ( CL), John Deere ( DE) and Tiffany & Co. ( TIF), which have all out-gunned countless competitors and economic cycles to reach 100 years of age. IBM: Tech's Golden Oldie Though this type of lasting power inevitably has, at times, colored IBM as stodgy, slow-growing and unexciting -- especially in a sector where many investors crave a continuous stream of new consumer gadgets -- Big Blue has repeatedly reconquered tech with its own world-changing brand of innovation.
So who in tech is in for the next 100 years? Obvious answers from our sources include Apple ( AAPL) -- whose ability to innovate in consumer electronics is viewed as virtually untouchable -- and Google ( GOOG), thanks to its significant investment in efficient data centers and sustainability (not, as you might think, its core search business). But what about the next generation of young tech companies -- those that have recently gone public or are speculated to do so in the near-term? It wasn't so easy. Most of the hot Internet companies popular with investors earned a thumbs down from our sources. No one we spoke to expected notable social networkers LinkedIn ( LNKD), Twitter or Pandora ( P) to last more than 10 years, although Groupon received slightly higher praise. "It's an interesting gimmick," said Pund-IT principal analyst Charles King. "I'd give them two decades tops." Read on for the three young tech firms likely to be around 100 years from now.
Facebook: Today's Telephone
In a socially networked world where competitors like Myspace and Friendster have largely died off, it's unlikely the same will happen to Facebook. Not only is it the fourth-largest U.S. Web property according to Comscore, it's the most beloved social media brand, thanks in part to the role it plays in taking up large chunks of our day. More than 50% of Facebook users log onto the site every day, says the company. "Facebook is untouchable," said Scott Sweet, senior managing partner at IPO Boutique. "Nobody should even waste their time and try to catch up." Facebook, which is approaching 700 million users, hit a new high of 157.2 million visitors in May, up from 3.2 million the previous month, according to Comscore. And while subscriber growth in the U.S. has slowed some, Facebook is concentrating on further expanding in Mexico, Brazil and India, where usage has increased dramatically within the last year. Founded in 2004 in a Harvard dorm room and the subject of a recent Hollywood blockbuster, Facebook has evolved from a social network reserved for Ivy League schools into a super-platform largely responsible for a new generation of gamers -- folks (mainly women) addicted to games like Farmville and CityVille. "Facebook is so easy to use and seamless," said Tom Taulli, an independent IPO analyst who coins Facebook as today's version of the telephone. "People will always want to communicate and be social, and I don't see that changing." Facebook has staying power because its service is so entrenched in the everyday lives of its users, said Nick Einhorn, an analyst at Renaissance Capital. "The network effect is a pretty key barrier here to Facebook's significance ," he said. It's also the social media IPO that everyone's waiting for. Facebook is rumored to be eyeing a public debut in the first quarter of next year, one that could possibly value the company at more than $100 billion.
Tesla: Swanked-Out Green Hope
Last summer, when Tesla Motors ( TSLA) became the first American car company to go public in half a century, it carried more weight than the usual IPO. Tesla, with its Silicon Valley slick and pretty, zero-emission sports cars, symbolized an investment based on hope, not just for a new California upstart that stood in stark contrast to its much larger, older, bankrupt-weakened rivals, but also as a concrete way for investors to buy into the approaching end to the country's dependence on oil. The company's first product is revolutionary: The Roadster, a $110,000 sports car whose 4-second, zero-to 60 mph acceleration is powered by an all-electric powertrain, can travel nearly 250 miles on a single charge. "Tesla has the expertise of understanding the very complex nature of making a battery electric car work," said John O'Dell, senior editor and green car advisor at Edmunds. "That's what makes them valuable." In fact, the key to its future lies in that expertise; Tesla generates additional revenue through supply and development deals with Toyota ( TM) and Daimler, the latter which selected Tesla to supply battery packs and chargers to assist in the development of similar products. Both giants also have small stakes in Tesla. Tesla will be around 100 years from now because of its commitment to technology and change, said analyst Taulli. "If you look at car companies like General Motors ( GM) and Ford ( F), back in their day they were great technologies," he said. "The future of transportation is going to require more and more technology, which Tesla is doing." While far from the only green car maker -- Toyota's Prius recently passed the two-million-sold mark and GM is ramping up production of its all-electric Volt -- Tesla, which doesn't have the capacity to scale up to provide mass-market vehicles, operates in a very small, luxury niche. Tesla also has ties to another top innovator: Google. The automaker has hired several top executives from the search giant and counts Larry Page and Sergey Brin as backers. But while Tesla may have a bright future, it's got plenty of roadblocks to deal with. Namely, the company must find a way to keep the cost of its cars down. The average cost of a car last month was around $30,000 -- significantly lower than that of any Tesla vehicle. "Tesla will need to find that math equation soon -- they can't only keep going after going after the early adopters and have a viable business model," said Jesse Toprak, an analyst for TrueCar. Tesla went public in June 2010 at an offering price of $17 and saw shares pop 40.5% on its first day of trading. Earlier this month the company raised $158 million in a secondary offering to help fund development of its Model X Crossover vehicle. Since then, shares of Tesla have been trading around $29, up 11% year-to-date.
BrightSource: Solar's Warmest Front
BrightSource Energy, the first solar thermal company to file for an IPO, just might be the big alternative energy push investors have been waiting for: It has contracts totaling 2200 megawatts of solar energy in its pipeline, twice as much as all of the solar installed in the U.S. in 2010, according to GTM Research, the market research arm of Green Tech Media. "If you look at a basic solar company, cells and modules will always come and go and that technology will change," said Tim Keating, president of Keating Capital, a pre-IPO fund which invests in the green tech sector. "BrightSource will use whatever technology going forward is best and most efficient at the time." Solar thermal technology is the process of harnessing solar energy for heat. While much of solar thermal is used today to heat water for residential and commercial use (think swimming pools), BrightSource goes a little bigger, using mirrors to concentrate sunlight to heat liquid that produces steam to turn a turbine, which, in turn, creates electricity. The technology also includes a storage capability so that solar energy generated during hours when demand is low can be released later in the day when demand is at its peak. Earlier this year, BrightSource, which designs and builds solar plants for utility companies, received $1.6 billion in loan guarantees from the U.S. Department of Energy -- in addition to $168 million from Google -- to help build its Ivanpah solar complex in the California desert. Scheduled to be completed in 2013, the Ivanpah facility will provide enough energy to power 85,000 homes. While natural gas has historically been the cheapest form of energy, gas prices are expected to rise over the next several years while solar prices are anticipated to fall. If this trend continues, BrightSource's method of creating an inexpensive, environmentally friendly form of power could be around for years to come, say analysts. BrightSource also has deep ties with the state of California, which recently passed a law that requires utilities to generate 33% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020. If the company can effectively develop its projects throughout the next several years, it will supply 13% of California's power. "If BrightSource can build out its plants and scale efficiently its future looks bright," said Brett Prior, senior analyst at GTM Research. --Written by Olivia Oran in New York. >To follow the writer on Twitter, go to http://twitter.com/Ozoran. >To submit a news tip, send an email to: email@example.com.