If Apple (AAPL) adds the couch potato to its legions of fans with a branded television concept, the largest company in the world might just have the biggest customers too.
Apple rules the innovations wars, and most of the recent innovation has come by way of what lies inside the screen. From the latest iPhone to the new iPad, we all love the stuff behind the glass. Make the screen bigger, ala the often buzzed-about iPanel television set, and things get really interesting.
Now lets not sugar-coat the fact that Apple stock is getting hammered in the markets right now, with pullbacks upwards of 7% over the last five days. Sure, the stock is up more than 40% year-to-date, but the recent drop still stings a bit. Most financial journalists will use the recent pull back as a platform to profess their top 10 reasons the stock will continue sliding, but that's not going to happen here. Lets use the quick dip as a chance to catch our breath and look ahead.
Looking ahead, the future for Apple looks incredibly bright, which might have something to do with all those glorious iPad screens being turned on simultaneously across the world. Apple recently announced the new iPad will arrive in South Korea and 11 additional countries on Friday, April 20. Starting Friday, April 27, Apple will begin shipping to nine more countries. Of course, the world is clamoring for China to be added to the Apple iPad market. Regulatory authorities have approved at least the Wi-Fi version of the device, but Apple is apparently not ready to launch the device in the country just yet.
Speaking of screens coming to life, Apple Nation has been patiently waiting for their leader to officially announce the new Apple television set. The most recent rumors have put forth the prediction that "iPanel" will be the name of a yet-to-be-announced device that will allow Apple to reinvent the television. Recent reports detail the new iPanel as the latest evolution in television equipped with advanced features including a computer, a media hub and a gaming center.
Apple's computer + media hub + gaming center is not the only killer combo being developed, as Microsoft (MSFT) has been patiently assembling its own triumvirate. Microsoft's power trio relies on Windows 8, Windows Phone and Xbox with a pinch of Bing and SkyDrive thrown in for good measure. Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) ecosystem approach is completely device agnostic, with the web serving as the single platform of the future. The race for complete ecosystem dominance is being waged on the lead lap by Apple and Google with Microsoft drafting a bit behind.
Owning the living room is the ultimate goal for all the major tech players. The next flurry of punches to own this domain should come from Apple as the public is already making assumptions that the company's new iPanel should be to the TV what the iPhone was to the cell phone. Most rumor sites and anonymous sources have speculated that the product could be released as early as year's end.
Jefferies analyst Peter Misek has raised his target price for Apple to $800 based on the potential impact of the new iPanel, and he is not alone. Most of the $1,000 Apple share price predictor personas are using the iPanel as a fire-starter to push the stock past this 4-figure milestone.
The iPanel television set is certainly the screen to end all screens, yet another product is threatening to steal a little of the screen limelight - although not in an entirely positive way. Recent reports from Chinese web portal NetEase detail Apple's supposed plans for the launch of a smaller "iPad mini" in the third quarter of this year. According to the report, Apple is planning to launch with six million units of the device at a price of either $249 or $299. The obvious reaction to this much buzzed about rumor is that Apple is actually worried about forthcoming Windows 8 products and small success stories such as Amazon's (AMZN) Kindle Fire. Any mention of Apple even thinking of having to "counter attack" anyone has skittish investors cashing out.
The mini iPad news may prove to be just a rumor, but the fact remains that Apple needs to start stoking the fire for its next great product launch. Sure, the iPhone 5 is set to debut in October, and other novel upgrades to proven products, like Apple TV and the iPad, have come to market - but we all want something new. The venerable PowerBook keeps getting better, but not in evolutionary terms. Many of the recent tweaks across most product lines are taking place inside the devices. Sure, it's great to empower new chip designs and longer lasting batteries, but at the end of the day, these upgrades are just not that sexy. An Apple iPanel would definitely bring the sexy back.
A handful of financial experts will tell you that Apple's current stock is priced to perfection and any little hiccup will cause it to nosedive. When the hiccups are big enough, like we have all witnessed over the past week of trading - things can get a little ugly. Many savvy investors placed simple stop losses on Apple at the emotional $600 level and recent activity has pushed the stock down close to $580. Every "play it safe" investor got pushed out early this week.
Will investors that have taken profits off the table jump back in anytime soon? Will those that were forced to sell this week dive back in tomorrow? It's tough to say. One thing is for sure though - an official announcement on the Apple iPanel could really get the pendulum swinging in the positive direction. That direction, up and to the right, that we have all grown quite comfortable with when we glance at our Apple holdings at the close of each business day.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.