Stocks: Pandora Streams On; Nvidia Puts Launch on Hold

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Pandora music
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Companies can make brilliant moves, but there are also times when things don't work out quite as planned. From a gaming device that got delayed to a software update that adds credibility to a high-tech field, here's a rundown of the week's smartest moves and biggest blunders in the business world.

Pandora Media (P) -- Winner

The leading music streaming service continues to call "Shotgun!"

Pandora announced some important milestones as it tries to make its service the platform of choice for smartphone-strapped drivers.

Pandora has now received 2.5 million activations exclusively through its partnerships with 23 different automaker brands covering more than 100 different models.

The dot-com darling expects a third of all cars sold in this country this year to have Pandora preinstalled, giving drivers seamless access to the service through dashboard entertainment systems.

Streaming radio has come a long way.

Nvidia (NVDA) -- Blunder

The leader in graphics chips was supposed to wow gamers with Nvidia Shield this week. The handheld device with its 5-inch high-def screen and physical controller was going to be the head-turning gadget that put Android-based gaming on the map.

Well, on Wednesday -- just a day before it was set to hit stores -- Nvidia announced that it would be delaying the launch until July. A third-party component wasn't up to snuff, forcing Nvidia to call off its big bet on mobile gaming before it even had a chance to start.

Nvidia cut the price of the handheld gaming system last week to $299 from $349, so there were already questions about customer demand. Now we have a quality control issue that let this buggy component go through unnoticed until just before its retail launch.

"Nvidia" resembles the Spanish word for "envy," but no one is feeling envious of the chip giant's position this week.

3-D Printing -- Winner

There have been few tech innovations in recent years as intriguing as 3-D printing. Investors have rallied around the few publicly traded companies associated with the booming niche, making 3D Systems (DDD) and Stratasys (SSYS) two of last year's biggest gainers.

The ability to print physical objects -- from dental implants to that Lego piece your nephew misplaced -- is pretty compelling.

Despite the buzz, 3-D printing hasn't gone mainstream. That may be changing now that Microsoft (MSFT) revealed this week that its latest Windows 8.1 update will offer native 3-D printing support. It's the first operating system to do that, opening the door for wider acceptance at a time when 3-D printers are starting to be sold at office supply superstores.

Paychex (PAYX) -- Blunder

One of the economy's best bellwethers is Paychex, and this week the payroll processing giant painted an iffy portrait of corporate America.

Paychex's revenue did climb 6% higher, but analysts were holding out for a little more. Wall Street was forecasting a profit of 37 cents a share, but the human resources giant only came through with net income of 34 cents a share.

Paychex is a great gauge for the state of the economy. If companies are hiring, the additional paychecks will show up in Paychex's revenue. Business is improving at the company, but not fast enough.

Netflix (NFLX) and Amazon.com (AMZN) -- Winners

The streaming-video-smorgasbord market is shaping up into a two-company race. Netflix and Amazon issued dueling press releases this week, touting new children-friendly shows that they will be adding to their digital catalogs.

There doesn't have to be just one winner. Monthly subscriptions to both services add up to less than a basic subscription to HBO or Showtime. As Netflix and Amazon continue to flesh out their vaults with content that isn't available on the other leading platform, it will make it that much more compelling for TV buffs to join both services.

Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz owns shares of Netflix. The Motley Fool recommends 3D Systems, Amazon.com, Netflix, NVIDIA, Pandora Media, Paychex and Stratasys. The Motley Fool owns shares of 3D Systems, Amazon.com, Microsoft, Netflix and Stratasys and has the following options: Short Jan 2014 $36 Calls on 3D Systems and Short Jan 2014 $20 Puts on 3D Systems.


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