Commentary

After Jobs, Is Apple A Stock Without A Shtick?

Steve Jobs has apparently been dead long enough that he’s fair game not only for a satirical (and controversial) 78-minute biopic on “Funny or Die” but also for nervous Nellie investors who are dating his demise as the beginning of the end of Apple itself.

It’s as if Apple had been offering shares of pure sizzle for all those years since Jobs returned to the company in 1997 and righted the wrongs of the marketing types who drove him out of the company in 1985.

“The Apple stock crash is starting to reach a historic order of magnitude, shaking the faith of the individual investors who piled on in large part on Jobs' showmanship. Shares are down 44% from the closing high of $702.10 on Sept.19, 2012,” reports Matt Kranz in USA Today. “This crash has obliterated $291.2 billion in shareholder wealth, which exceeds the market value of Google and Microsoft individually and is nearly five times the market value of Facebook.”

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Kranz’ column is called “Ask Matt” and the question posed is “Why does Apple’s stock keep falling?”

“The rapid come-uppance for Apple and its investors is a big reminder that the company, especially lacking the leadership of its CEO and top salesman Steve Jobs, is ‘becoming just another stock,’ Brean Capital analyst Frank Longman says. Kranz also elucidates several lessons about the cult of the star CEO that other companies might heed.

Nathan Porter and Nick Wingfield, writing in the New York Times, tell us “no one really knows” why “Wall Street has turned viciously on its one-time iDarling.”

Its 2.7% drop yesterday to $392.05 –- the first close below $400 since late 2011 (right after Jobs’ death) -– has been widely pegged to an audio chip supplier for Apple warning about “a decreased forecast for a high-volume product.” Cirrus Logic didn’t even name names but the negative news led to Bernstein Research analyst Toni Sacconaghi to lower his sales forecasts for both the iPhone and iPad by one million units each. 

“We believe multiple news reports and checks support demand trending below our previous estimate from January,” Sacconaghi wrote in a note sent to investors on Wednesday, Ian Sheer reports in the Wall Street Journal. “Concerns that new products won't be released until the summer have also weighed on Apple's shares,” Sheer reports, citing the concerns of another analyst, Sterne Agee’s Shaw Wu.

And they had better be insanely great, it appears.

“Many investors feel the company needs new breakthrough products of the kind Apple’s late co-founder Steve Jobs delivered repeatedly during his remarkable career -- and current Apple CEO Tim Cook has yet to introduce a truly breakthrough new product of his own,” writesTime’s Sam Gustin in a piece headlined “How Far Can The Mighty Apple Fall?”

Well, it has reached its nadir, Henry Blodgett seems to think. “I Just Bought Apple Stock!” screams the headline on a Business Insider blog posted at 3:35 p.m. yesterday. “Enough is enough,” reads the lede. “Wall Street has become way too pessimistic about a company that still makes great products and still has a strong strategic position in fast-growing markets that will do okay over the next couple of years,” he avers in the body of the post, which also points to “The Bull Case For Apple,” a piece he and Jay Yarow posted Wednesday.

(By the way, and speaking of image polishing, there’s an excellent Ken Auletta profile of Blodgett in the April 8 issue of The New Yorker, with the subtitle asking: “Can a disgraced Wall Street analyst earn trust as a journalist?”)

As far as “Funny or Die”’s free online flick goes, reviews are decidedly mixed and heavily opinionated. 

“A Review of ‘iSteve.’ Spoiler Alert: This Movie Sucks,” reads the hed over Mat Honan’s Wired piece. On MacWorld, Dan Moren and Lex Friedman opine that “the free, 79-minute humorous retelling of the Apple co-founder’s life -- is surprisingly amusing, provided you are both a fan of Apple and of stupid comedy, and presuming you also don’t mind a little profanity sprinkled in for good measure.”

Just plain viewers are also on either side of the spectrum.

“I've read a few reviews, and all I can say is, what is wrong with you people who don't think this is brilliant and funny?” asks Barbara Hyman, a “top commenter” at “Funny or Die” in joining the battle of viewers over whether the effort is a really good and innovative product or some out-of-the-mainstream curiosity. “They created a whole new art form here, mixing truth with satire with great acting with farce." 

I haven’t seen more that a few minutes of “iSteve” myself yet, so I say this with qualification, but it sounds like what Apple has been about since the beginning. You either get it or you don’t.

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