Tim Cook's leadership continues to be underestimated by Wall Street. The same old story inferring he's not Steve Jobs deserves to be re-written. Instead of focusing on what Tim Cook is not, it's time to focus on what he is. One software event and one hardware event per year is sufficient. The resulting seasonality of product cycles that occurs in between events is fine. As long as Apple (AAPL) takes care of business Tim Cook should be applauded for his efforts. So, is he taking care of business?
Against the consensus Steve Jobsian opinion of the time, Cook oversaw the release of the iPad mini with record-breaking results. Against the Steve Jobsian opinion of the time, Cook got rid of Scott Forstall and handed the iOS reigns to Jony Ive. A gutsy move that resulted in iOS 7, easily the most profound software update since 2007. Against the Steve Jobsian opinion of the time, Cook initiated the boldest stock buyback program in the history of corporate America. A move that has expanded Apple's investor base to include not only growth funds but income, value and activist funds as well. Today we find ourselves awaiting a September 10th event to unveil a potentially game changing iPhone 5S with fingerprint iWallet functionality along with a game changing iPhone 5C that promises to sell like hotcakes in emerging markets. Tim's decision to hold a separate iPhone release event in China on September 11th demonstrates what we've always known about him, he's in tune with the Chinese opportunity. Yes he's taken his time, but the patience is about to pay off in the form of market share gains and margin sustainability, two vital pieces of the puzzle that few have been able to manage as well as Apple. Cook is an operations wizard. Not even the mighty Samsung can come close to executing a launch like Cook can. It's expected the international rollout of the 5S and 5C will set records in terms of sales and pace. When you stop focusing on what Tim Cook isn't and start focusing on what he is you realize that the guy was perfectly prepared to lead Apple at this moment in history. A moment when market share and margins in the mobile space can be had for the taking. Cook's pillage begins on September 10th.
Beyond the iPodification of the iPhone, credible rumors are coming forth that reveal Apple has received three separate shipments of mysterious "set top boxes." It has been two years since the Apple TV hardware was upgraded so a new model is to be expected soon. The unexpected part of the equation is that the bill of lading information from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security also includes a label explaining this device to include a "communication function" that reminds us of a quote given by tech insider MG Seigler one month ago, "Not to go into rumor central here but the latest things like I've heard are some sort of television product - not necessarily a television screen but something - could be coming as soon as this November. And I think there's some surprises there about what it could actually be and I don't know for sure what it could actually be but there's been whispers about, so I'm not going to write anything about it, but there's whispers out there that the interaction with it could be the interesting thing. People have talked about voice, but I think that's out the window and there might be some new way to interact with whatever this thing is." If Tim is able to capture the living room with a new version of Apple TV it will put the nail in the coffin of his irrational critics.
Look, we all knew that it would be difficult for anyone to follow in the footsteps of a legend like Steve Jobs. Competing with a deceased icon is an impossible task because of our natural inclination to elevate a life once lived. It's even more difficult to compete with Steve Jobs because of the particular year in which he passed, Steve was in his prime. If he had passed away 15 years earlier it would have been a different story. Nevertheless, to condemn Apple because Steve Jobs is no longer leading the company is like condemning the United States without George Washington or Disney without Walt. Tim Cook has put Apple and its stock in a position to succeed because of the heavy dose of positive uncertainty swirling from a new iPhone lineup, a fingerprint enabled iWallet, a China Mobile deal, an Apple TV and even an iWatch in 2014. With the stock priced near $500 a share, a P/E of 11, and a bold buyback increasing buying pressure on already depressed shares this stock finds itself in a sweet spot to ramp into year's end. When it happens, be sure to give some of the credit to Tim Cook.