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Apple Will Last 100 Years, Google May Not, Says Economist

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This Wednesday, believe it or not, IBM turns 100.

With the merger of three companies in 1911, IBM has since catered to the ever-evolving line of technologies -- punch-cards, magnetic-tape systems, mainframes, PCs, and so on. But according to The Economist, IBM owes much of its longevity to, well, "dumb luck." Sidestepping numerous near-death experiences, the company has shifted its focus onto services and ideas -- rather than a single technology.

With one of the most (in)famous companies passing the century mark, The Economist also took a look at today's top performing tech companies and wondered who will make it to the other side of the 21st Century.

At the top of the list, of course, is Apple. The London publication sees a long life for the Cupertino company, mostly in part to its simple and successful formula: "Take the latest technology, package it in a simple, elegant form, and sell it at a premium price." Its evolution from computers, to media players, to smartphones, to tablets, to the cloud has proven its flair for skillfully shifting its scope and maintain a healthy pace with new tech.

Amazon and Facebook also make The Economist's centennial club. The two services are leaders in their respective fields: buying things and sharing things. The magazine predicts that while Amazon will provide consumers with an easy and popular way of purchasing goods, Facebook will provide its users with an easy and popular way of sharing information.

Of The Economist's choices for top performers, Facebook is its most curious -- given the public's mercurial taste in social networks in the past. (Pour some of your 40 for Friendster and MySpace.)

On the flipside, the magazine does not see bright futures for Dell, Cisco, and Microsoft -- all of which, it says, are largely dependent on products rather than philosophies. Dell specializes mostly in PC manufacturing, Cisco primarily in routers, and Microsoft chiefly in Windows. The Economist claims that these three companies have difficulty "navigating technological shifts," and many analysts would agree with that assessment. And unless major shifts occurs in their business models, we might be saying goodbye to these tech giants before we hit the latter half of the 2100s.

Aside from Facebook, The Economist's most surprising prediction was its uncertainty on whether Google will make it to see 100. Also in that boat was Oracle, which has expanded its database focus to include both software and hardware. And despite Google's expansion into smartphones and an infinitely wide variety of web apps, the magazine assesses the company as largely dependent on web search and related advertizing.

I, myself, find Google's longevity far more likely than Facebook's, but what do I know?

The Economist has been doing this for 168 years.

(See also: Apple, Google Will Soon Cost Carriers Billions and Nokia CEO: Blame Apple for Android's Success)

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POSITION:  No positions in stocks mentioned.