Commentary

The Apple Tree Continues To Blossom

A year ago last March, when we gave our son some money to play around with in the stock market when he turned 21, I suggested that his decision to buy Apple stock might be a mistake. "The market has already anticipated the iPad," I said as sagely as possible through a mouthful of birthday cake. Which explains, in a nutshell, why I'm typing these words at 5:34 a.m. on a sweltering July morning instead of sleeping soundly at a summer estate on a private island off Maine.

The stock was hovering around $225 a share when I dispensed the advice. Apple closed at 376.85 yesterday. Its premarket price this morning is up 3.55% to 390.21. My son is sleeping soundly.

Why the rise? "IPhone Powers Apple Sales," cries the Wall Street Journal. "IPad 2 lifts Apple above forecasts," declares Financial Times. "Apple Releases OS X 10.7 Lion," reveals Information Week. And it is doing it all as Steve Jobs remains on medical leave and "Some Apple Directors Ponder CEO Succession," as a piece by Yukari Iwatani Kane, Joann S. Lublin and Nick Wingfield reveal in the WSJ. The New York Times' Verne G. Kopytoff covers the waterfront in his lede: "Strong sales to shoppers in emerging markets [particularly China] and to business customers helped Apple extend its lengthy streak of stellar performance."

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The correct answer, indeed, is "most of the above" -- excluding the succession rumors.

"Apple's results come even as its wide berth in markets that it has dominated -- smartphones and tablet computers -- has diminished," write Iwatani Kane and Sherr. "The company has seen increasing competition from rivals like Samsung Electronics Co., Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc. and HTC Corp., prompting several intellectual product disputes. Many rival devices run on Google's Android. (Don't miss Aaron Barr's industry analysis -- "Tablets, Smartphones, E-readers Propel Growth" -- below.)

Steve Jobs is pleased with the results, but his eye is where it usually is: On the future. "We're thrilled to deliver our best quarter ever, with revenue up 82% and profits up 125%," he says in a statement. "Right now, we're very focused and excited about bringing iOS 5 and iCloud to our users this fall."

And, writes Patrick May in the San Jose Mercury News, Apple "expects China's voracious appetite" to continue to feed the bottom line. "We firmly believe we're just scratching the surface right now, and there's an incredible opportunity for Apple there," COO Tim Cook told analysts on a conference call.

But Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer warned that its fourth-quarter outlook would be weaker than expected. "We ... have a future product transition that we're not going to talk about today and [this] will impact our September quarter," FT's Chris Nuttall reports.

Apple sold more than 20 million iPhones (up 142% over last year), more than 9 million iPads (up 183%) and almost 4 million Macs (up 14%). IPods were down 20%, on the other hand, but still moved to the tune of 7.5 million units.

"The biggest surprise is that the Mac, and especially the MacBook Air, has been selling extremely strong," Creative Strategies analyst Tim Bajarin tells May, adding that demand for notebooks is higher than ever.

"Sales of iPad have absolutely been a frenzy for people to get one," Cook said. "We were selling every unit we could make.

Now back to Jobs, and the WSJ story suggesting that "some members" of its seven-person board, which includes Jobs, "have discussed CEO succession with executive recruiters and at least one head of a high-profile technology company." When asked about the allegations, Jobs responded in an email: "I think it's hogwash." Nonetheless, the WSJ's sources say a couple of directors "have held talks about the company's leadership with some search firms after those recruiters informally approached them."

The story makes clear that Jobs, 56, is active in Apple's affairs despite his leave. He comes into the office in Cupertino, is closely involved in strategy and planning sessions and remains publicly visible -- appearing on stage for Apple's annual developers' conference in June, for example -- although he did not participate in yesterday's conference call.

Those public appearances are, perhaps, what will define Jobs' legacy, not only to Apple but to CEOdom. When he takes the stage, a paper published in Booz&Co.'s strategy + business says, he's doing a lot more than introducing a new product or delivering a keynote.

"Through his carefully stage-managed appearances, Jobs uses narrative and dramatic techniques to help reinforce his identity as a charismatic leader and to frame the Apple story in his terms," Abz Sharma and David Grant, both of the University of Sydney, Australia, contend. "Jobs is an icon, and Apple is among the most hallowed brands in the world; nevertheless, the techniques he uses offer lessons for other senior executives who need to manage the message about themselves and their companies."

So whaddaya really gotta do to be like Steve? Simple. Just bring "humor, spontaneity, a mix of self-deprecation and pride, and, perhaps most importantly, a sense of community" to your presentation. Easy. Just like they teach you in Toastmasters

1 comment about "The Apple Tree Continues To Blossom".
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  1. Adam Hartung from spark partners, July 20, 2011 at 9:25 a.m.

    Far too many people give up on growth stocks too early? Why? Because they think all the good news is "priced in." Apple is demonstrating that companies which are linked to market trends can continue growing far beyond most expert's expectations. The most important thing is for the market to grow - and for the company to overcome lock-ins to what works early in order to constantly remain at the leading edge of the market. Apple is a great example - and a stock everyone should own.

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