By most people’s measure, it was quite a quarter for Apple, but apparently not for the geniuses on Wall Street. While Apple sold almost a million iPhones in the first week (think about that for a second) and had what BusinessWeek called a “blowout quarter,” an off-handed remark by Apple’s CFO Peter Oppenheimer sent stock prices tumbling yesterday. The reason for the panic was an announcement that margins could be slightly lower next quarter due to a future product transition that Oppenheimer couldn’t talk about in the quarterly earnings conference call. If recent history is any benchmark, that product announcement will only lead to more sales.
That future product transition question got people buzzing about what it could mean. Gizmodo speculated it’s going to be a Mac Book Touch, a tablet without a keyboard, sort of a large iPhone. Nice idea, but Gizmodo was far from alone. Joe Wilcox spoke to a bunch of analysts for his Apple Watch column on the eWeek site and came up with several other ideas including a low-priced laptop aimed at the student market or a revamped AppleTV. The folks who commented on the article were happy to speculate even further including an Apple-branded flat screen TV, an iPhone cell phone network, a new version of the Apple operation system (OS XI), or a video game system to name but a few.
Whatever it is, it seems to me that Wall Street is focusing entirely on the wrong thing and my colleague Brian Oco, who writes The Money Pit blog, agrees. He wrote of Apple the other day:
By any measure, Apple just had one of its best quarters ever. The new Apple iPhone is a mega-hit. Consumers love the brand. Even Mac PC and iPod sales are way up.
In fact, Oco was somewhat exasperated that the financial press chose to focus on the one seemingly negative piece of information instead of all the clearly positive news for the company.
One thing that may have investors legitimately feeling skittish is the lingering issue of Steve Jobs’ health and his appearance at the WWDC in June. Apple could help minimize this fear by simply going public with a clear transition strategy for a post-Jobs Apple, and they could begin to ease up on the whole cult of personality around him. It has worked to build the company, but it's time to let the public see that Apple is a lot more than the vision of a single person. While it would be foolish to minimize Jobs' role at Apple, he’s still only one individual in a company full of very smart people.
If investors are afraid that Apple is in decline in the face of evidence that suggests the very opposite, that will undoubtedly please the bargain hunters who I’m sure will be lining up to pick up Apple shares at bargain prices. Let’s face it, although many on Wall Street may be shuddering (probably pulling out their iPhones right now to sell, sell, sell), Apple clearly isn’t going anywhere any time soon and the power of its brand shows no sign of diminishing.