The last we heard about Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), analysts were telling the investing public that it's in a state of stagnancy, similar to the way Microsoft once was. There were rumors floating around that the company had entered into a trading range and didn't have what it took to move the needle of its stock anytime soon.
In poker, when someone is telling you something without telling you something about their hand, it's called a "tell". And everyone, even those of us that think we're the best gamblers in history, has a tell. Tim Cook is no different, and his actions last week at Apple's shareholder meeting - while saying nothing - seemed to really talk to me about where Apple is headed.
You see, Tim Cook has been mild mannered and respectful ever since he's been Apple's CEO. Unlike Jobs, Cook has sometimes come off as milquetoast and complacent, something that Apple bears have continued to point out for the past few years. Arguably, Cook has never come off as cocky, confident, and downright mischievous as he did during the company's otherwise boring shareholder meeting this past week.
Tim Cook's actions in the midst of a seemingly normal shareholder meeting, suggested something else to me. Call me crazy, but I think Apple is due to get aggressive again - real aggressive. I'd like to specifically note the part of the meeting where Cook said to the audience, "We want to grow more. And this morning, we want to unveil some new products." After realizing he had the audience's full attention, he then said, "I was kidding about the last part."
In the midst of being scrutinized for lack of innovation, what CEO comes out and does something like that? A CEO who is holding a big hand, that's who.
Silicon Valley.com reported:
Going far beyond the 60 minutes these annual meetings normally run, Cook launched into a litany of upbeat Apple product endorsements, calling the new MacBook Air not only "incredible" but "particularly incredible." He told the several hundred shareholders who had braved the rain to attend the meeting that Apple had made $1 billion in revenue from hardware as well as content sales in 2013 from the Apple TV, hinting that the product may well be moving beyond the "hobby" he has long referred to it as.
Additionally, Cook took a strong environmentalist stance when asked about profit versus benefit to the environment. It reminded me of billionaire Julian Robertson dumping his Apple stock because he thought Steve Jobs was a big meanie. I wrote about that ridiculous argument in an article you can read here. I wonder what Robertson thinks about Cook, who stuck to his guns when pushed. Newsmax.com reported:
Apple CEO Tim Cook has a strong message for stockholders who don't like his company's stance on environmental issues and its concerns about global warming: "Get out of the stock."
Cook, the normally mild-mannered successor to much-more fiery-tempered late Apple founder and CEO Steve Jobs, angrily told the representatives during a question-and-answer session at the stockholders' meeting that Apple takes its mission to the environment seriously, even though it doesn't earn the company money.
"When we work on making our devices accessible by the blind," he said. "I don't consider the bloody ROI. If you want me to do things only for ROI reasons, you should get out of this stock."
Environmental efforts make economic sense, Cook said, and the company does "a lot of things for reasons besides profit motive. We want to leave the world better than we found it."
As someone that isn't as well versed in science as I would like to be, but definitely considers myself on the side of the scientific method, I dig Cook's comments, personally. Politics aside, it was a strong stance for someone like Cook to take at a public event, and another "tell" that he's holding a big hand, if you ask me.
Cook also poked fun at people that are "ripping the company off left, right, and sideways":
"We're working on some things that are extensions of things you can see and some that you can't see," Cook said at the annual meeting, referring to a 32 percent increase in research and development costs last year.
Responding to a question about innovation, Cook said Apple preferred not to talk about new products under development so as not to tip off the competition.
"You can see we're getting ripped off left, right and sideways," he said.
But why did we see such a different Tim Cook during this general meeting than we've seen in the past? What could Cook be hiding that make him act so cheeky and firm at this meeting - the opposite of his usual demeanor?
If you ask me, I think big things are coming.
1. We know that Apple was one way or another going to get into the set top TV business. We didn't know whether or not this was going to come from the manufacturing of an actual TV or a push on the Apple TV product the company already has. With Cook stating that Apple TV is no longer a "hobby", I have massive expectations for a new and reworked Apple TV.
2. Cook's backhanded badmouthing of the original iPad tells us that another iPad is on its way. What I've been predicting for a while is a hybrid, touch screen all-in-one iMac/iPad, similar to the ones that PC manufacturers are producing - but, you know, by Apple - and significantly cooler.
3. I think additional products, like the watch and biometric products will be on their way, too. And, as I've previously speculated, I think they're going to blow things like Samsung's watch and Nike's FuelBand out of the water - how the old Apple used to enter into a product line - remember that?
Regardless, while Cook didn't really say much, he said a lot to me. Apple's really cooking a little something up if you ask me, and if I were long Apple stock I would have liked his confident demeanor and tone at Apple's shareholder meeting.
I remain long-term bullish on Apple.