Coronavirus tests technical layers in a big way

<p>These are times that will test the tech’s soul.

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The summer app and sunshine code fail in this crisis. But technology that sustains and delivers productivity now deserves love and thanks from both employees and investors.

During the next month, Americans will work in equal numbers from home.

While most analysts emphasize the personal challenges of this, there are also huge investment opportunities. Companies that can keep their customers going through the outbreak can find great deals when it’s over.

Most of their warehouses have been beaten and are now on shelves.

Look at the street

Companies that deliver office applications to workers at home now shop for a third less than they did before the crisis.

Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT), Alphabet (NASDAQ: GOOG, NASDAQ: GOOGL) and a host of companies using their clouds to deliver software-as-a-service solutions are now trusted.

Microsoft and Google dominate the market for basic office tools. Database applications developed during the first decade of this century by Oracle (NYSE: ORCL), SAP (NYSE: SAP) and International Business Machines (NYSE: IBM) may prove more important.

Software-as-a-service clothing such as Salesforce (NYSE: CRM), Workday (NASDAQ: WDAY) and ServiceNow (NYSE: NOW), Atlassian (NASDAQ: TEAM) and HubSpot (NYSE: HUBS) deliver this technology in the form of appar. These can handle relationships with customers, business resources and people. Other companies such as Adobe (NASDAQ: ADBE) provide creativity tools. The challenge for Adobe is to get home offices to the same peripherals that they like in the office. Time to call Best Buy (NYSE: BBY).

Work from home

One of the most important technologies comes from Zoom Communications (NASDAQ: ZM), in the form of video conferencing. Zoom stock is one of the rare issues that is up for the year. Slack Technologies (NYSE: WORK) shows its value in text conferencing. Slack is down for the year. It competes with devices from Microsoft, Cisco Systems (NASDAQ: CSCO) and Google in conferences.

This period may be even more important for AT&T (NYSE: T), Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) and CenturyLink (NYSE: CTL). They need to keep the last mile of the link between cloud and customers open. The first two reduced capital budgets to pay for entertainment companies. CenturyLink has prioritized dividends. Its return on March 13 was 10.8%. It’s not a spelling mistake.

The most talked about company is Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN). Its Amazon Web Services cloud hosts most applications. Prime Video will entertain many people who are stuck at home. The company’s e-commerce unit can deliver products for those who cannot get out. These shares decreased by 27% from their peaks but only 10% for the year so far.

You must also look at the property placements (REIT). The largest office REITs, such as Boston Properties (NYSE: BXP), have declined as much as 18% for the year. The data center’s REIT, such as Digital Realty (NYSE: DLR), has increased by 8%. This may be the beginning of a larger move.

The conclusion on technical shares

Personally, I want to welcome you all to my world. I have worked at home since 1983. I started with a Kaypro and a 300-baud modem.

Make sure you have a clear, quiet space with Wi-Fi. A little coffee and rolls would be nice. Walk around every hour so you do not solidify. Work the same hours as you do in the office and enjoy the extra time you do not waste getting there.

On the weekends, make sure you get out among the people and check into the office as often for meetings with all hands.

You may never want to go back. Your portfolio, coming out of this crisis, may want to reflect that with some of the above technical stocks.

Dana Blankenhorn has been a finance and technology journalist since 1978. His latest book is Technology’s Big Bang: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow with Moore’s Law, essays on technology available in the Amazon Kindle store. Follow him on Twitter at @danablankenhorn. At the time of writing, he owned shares in MSFT, AMZN and DLR.