Challenges Circle Apple Inc.’s (AAPL) Road to Self-Driving Market, Facebook Inc’s (FB) Video Content is a ‘Work in Progress’

Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) are taking steps to ensure they can compete in a modern-day arena, between Apple’s Project Titan trekking along toward Apple’s first self-driving car and Facebook’s new prioritization of its video tab. Renowned Apple guru Gene Munster continues to highlight Apple’s software advantage, but wonders whether the tech giant can beat its hardware odds that are much tougher. In the other corner, there is an analyst from Wells Fargo who underscores “significant competitive advantage” for Facebook while simultaneously exploring video tab usage obstacles presented to the social media titan. Let’s take a closer look:

Apple Several Years Away from Releasing Its First Car

Apple news rippled through the market last Friday giving more color to the tech giant’s worst-kept “secret” of Project Titan, the company’s ambitious goal to make its new mark on self-driving cars. With a permit to test these cars in California, Gene Munster – sharing input from his new research-driven, venture capital firm Loup Ventures – believes the tech giant’s “dream car” is a fluid one-two punch between hardware-meets-software. Yet, a question mark lingers here: what is the giant building- a car or simply software?

Of course, the analyst understands that Apple has a clear-cut software advantage, a renowned Apple expert from an era gone by, betting on the giant before the first iPhone had even launched. Munster is a well-known Apple enthusiast who sees that “building an automotive product beyond CarPlay is a no-brainer,” as “Apple has one of the better stacks of necessary components to build a great car OS.” Just consider iTunes and Apple Music, Siri, Apple Maps, the iPhone camera in terms of image recognition, Touch ID (Munster highlights a security asset), and even the App Store has a way to keep OTA software consistently up-to-date.

Yet, even in light of these “obvious” legs up in the autonomous driving world, the analyst who has always gone to bat for Apple questions whether software mastery is enough to “overcome on the hardware side.” Can Apple build a car from start to finish? Munster votes no, as the giant is first and foremost a company known for design- not manufacturing.

“Even on an accelerated time table, Apple is likely multiple years away from a completed hardware design for a car,” continues the analyst, who asserts, “Finally, Tesla and Google have a multi-year lead on Apple in developing autonomous vehicle capabilities, including the associated testing mileage. We see autonomous driving capabilities as a key factor in auto desirability over the next five years.”

Overall, “Apple is almost certainly exploring how it could build an entire car, but as we learned the hard way with an Apple television, exploration does not mean a product comes to market. Apple is the best connected device maker in the world and the car is the biggest connected device in the world. There is a natural fit in the self-driving car market if Apple can figure out how to get past the challenges of making the hardware,” contends Munster.

TipRanks analytics exhibit AAPL as a Buy. Out of 37 analysts polled by TipRanks in the last 3 months, 28 are bullish on Apple stock, 7 remain sidelined, and 2 are bearish on the stock. With a return potential of nearly 8%, the stock’s consensus target price stands at $152.93.

Facebook Video: Better Value Video Inventory vs. Monetization Struggles

Wells Fargo analyst Peter Stabler dives into Facebook’s video asset, highlighting both “opportunities and challenges” that lie ahead. Especially in the latest quarters, FB’s team has advised shareholders to look out for waning ad load growth as well as a greater emphasis on investing in online video content. From Mark Zuckerberg’s stance, when tackling next steps for his brainchild, video is a “megatrend on the same order as mobile.”

Bullish on the social media titan’s role on the leaderboard, its rising potential for mobile monetization, robust growth picture, and encouraging prospects down the line, the analyst reiterates an Overweight rating on FB with a suggested valuation range between $155 to $160, which represents a just under 10% increase to a 13% increase from where the shares last closed.

Stabler opines, “Currently we believe FB’s mobile ‘video only’ tab likely monetizes at a lower rate vs. the flagship newsfeed, suggesting that if time spent in the video tab acts as a clean substitute for newsfeed browsing, monetization rates could suffer. […] On the consumer side, our survey points to broad satisfaction with FB video content, but overall low awareness of FB’s dedicated mobile app video tab—despite the feature having been rolled out in 2015.”

“Our analysis suggests video is a ‘work in progress’ for FB, and we expect further experimentation as management seeks to deliver greater volumes of high-value content accompanied by higher value ad opportunities. While increasing video tab usage (if a substitute for newsfeed) may present a headwind, we remain confident that FB’s scale and ad platform utility (data, formats, measurement) position the company to continue digital spending share gains,” concludes the analyst.

According to TipRanks, which measures analysts’ and bloggers’ success rate based on how their calls perform, five-star analyst Peter Stabler is ranked #265 out of 4,560 analysts. Stabler has an 81% success rate and garners 22.0% in his yearly returns. When recommending FB, Stabler earns 47.9% in average profits on the stock.

TipRanks analytics show FB as a Strong Buy. Based on 37 analysts polled by TipRanks in the last 3 months, 35 rate a Buy on Facebook stock while 2 maintain a Hold. The 12-month average price target stands at $163.06, marking a 15% upside from where the stock is currently trading.

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