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A box from Amazon.com is pictured on the porch of a house in Golden, Colorado. (Rick Wilking/Reuters/Rick Wilking/Reuters)
A box from Amazon.com is pictured on the porch of a house in Golden, Colorado. (Rick Wilking/Reuters/Rick Wilking/Reuters)

TheStreet.com

Three U.S tech stocks to watch Add to ...

Six months ago TheStreet busted out its top tech stocks for 2010. Here's our mid-term report for three of them.

Internet behemoth Amazon made our list of the year's top tech stocks after leaving rivals like eBay trailing in its wake. After successfully navigating the recession, Amazon was seen as one of the few large-cap tech companies capable of major growth.

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Investors, however, have been less than impressed with Amazon so far this year, although the market's expectations may have been over-inflated.

Even good first-quarter results were not enough to drive the company's stock upward, although disappointing guidance weighed on Amazon's shares. Overall, Amazon's share price has dipped 0.98% over the last six months.

There are certainly some big hurdles in Amazon's path. The strengthening dollar, for example, recently prompted Barclays Capital to trim its Amazon price target and EPS estimates. State taxation of Internet sales, the so-called Amazon Tax,could also prove a headache for online retailers.

Another threat looming on the horizon is Apple's iPad, touted as a potential Kindle-killer.

Still, there are plenty of positives in the Amazon story. As of last month, the retail giant had reportedly sold 3 million Kindle e-readers, although exact figures have not yet been released. Amazon also clinched a recent deal to sell Kindles at retail giant Target.

The company's acquisition of popular online shoe seller Zappos.com was also a shrewd move that bodes well for the future, and third-party sellers are expected to drive Amazon's overseas sales.

Thomas Weisel recently initiated its coverage of Amazon with a Market weight rating and $135 price target. Amazon now holds a significant portion -- 12% -- of the total U.S. e-commerce market, according to the analyst firm.

Currently trading around $126.49, Amazon's share dip could still spell longer-term upside for investors.

Described as a "mini-Microsoft" because of its dominant position in the Linux market, Red Hat has enjoyed solid, if unspectacular, share gains this year. The company's stock has risen 9.7 per cent during the last six months and the software maker is still getting plenty of analyst love.

Lazard Capital Markets recently initiated coverage of Red Hat with a buy rating and $35 price target.

"Red Hat is one of the best-positioned companies in mid-cap software," explained analyst Joel Fishbein, in a note released earlier this month. "In our view, Red Hat's recurring revenue model, high revenue visibility, and sticky customer base are under-appreciated."

Red Hat, which competes with Microsoft , Novell and Oracle, is seen as well-positioned to tap into some of tech's biggest trends. These include virtualization, cloud computing and growing demand for middleware, a form of software that links different computer programs.



In March, the company posted strong fourth-quarter numbers, although its profit forecast fell short of analysts' estimates, bringing down Red Hat's stock.

M&A chatter also continues to swirl around the company, which is currently trading at around $31.90. There has been plenty of speculation about which firms might snap up Red Hat, with IBM and Oracle already touted as potential purchasers.

Lazard's Mr. Fishbein feels that the software maker remains an attractive M&A target, particularly given its share price. "Red Hat's unique technology and business model position the company as an ideal acquisition candidate at a significant premium to current trading multiple," he wrote, in his recent note.

VMware is certainly living up to our call. Buoyed by international sales and growing license revenue, VMware blew past analysts' estimates in its recent first quarter and gave strong guidance.

While there have been some fears about the stock's valuation, VMware shares have risen more than 72% in the last six months. It's currently trading around $71.72 and has plenty of fans.

"We continue to believe additional upside exists in VMware," explained Brian Marshall, an analyst at Gleacher & Company, in a recent note. Marshall, who reiterated his VMware buy rating, also raised the company's price target from $65 to $85, underlining the ongoing strength of virtualization technology.

Virtualization lets users divide physical hardware into multiple virtual chunks and has grown in popularity among users juggling a myriad of operating systems and applications. With companies also struggling with budget pressures, VMware and its rivals such as Microsoft and Citrix are pushing virtualization as a way for firms to reduce the amount of server and storage hardware within their data centers.

Majority-owned by storage giant EMC , VMware is also expected to tap the ongoing PC refresh with its desktop virtualization software.

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