Apple: Don't Lose That Magic

Jul.25.12 | About: Apple Inc. (AAPL)

The day after Steve Jobs died, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) closed at $377.37.

At the time, many market pundits suggested that, without Jobs, the glorious Apple growth story was dead: Will Apple lose its shine without the boss?

Yesterday, the stock closed at $600.92 -- an increase of 58.8% since Jobs' passing. Think about this: If you had bought Apple shares the day after the darkest day in the company's history, you would be up 58% on your position. Talk about counter-intuitive.

Concern over Steve Jobs' health was always something that frightened investors and traders.

So much was the future of the company intertwined with the man himself that many considered Steve Jobs to be Apple and Apple to be Steve Jobs.

Jim Cramer made the following statement on June 18, 2008 when the stock closed at $178.75: "Those who think Steve Jobs' health is on the line should take 75% of their Apple stock off the table."

As the share price shows, the company has continued to prosper without Steve Jobs. Tim Cook and his team have been able to efficiently push out the products that consumers have come to love. But how long can Apple thrive on the legacy ideas and aura of Steve Jobs?

After yesterday's good but not spectacular Q3 2012 earnings numbers released by Apple, the stock is currently down $22.00 (3.66%) on disappointment over the past quarter's numbers and concern over future earnings growth.

On the earnings call, both Tim Cook and Peter Oppenheimer blamed a slowing economy and rumors of a new iPhone for the decline in iPhone sales for Q3:

Apple Chief Financial Officer Peter Oppenheimer said the poor economy in Europe had a particularly large impact on Apple's sales during the June quarter. In addition, resource-based economies in countries like Australia, Brazil and Canada also struggled during the three-month span.

Another issue is rumors of Apple's anticipated next-generation products, in particular regarding a sixth-generation iPhone.

"We're reading the same rumors and speculation that you are about a new iPhone," Oppenheimer said.

Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook said he has the sense that there is "incredible anticipation" for Apple's next generation of products. While he said he can't exactly quantify the effect rumors have had on sales, he said it's likely a "reasonable amount."
AppleInsider July 24, 2012

What? This is blasphemy coming from the top two Apple executives. Can you ever imagine Steve Jobs making such comments on an earnings conference call?

I doubt Jobs would have even acknowledged the economy or rumors of a new iPhone as relevant topics of discussion. Instead, his focus would have been entirely on the quality of the products in existence, and the products to be released in the future. Economy? Rumors? A creative visionary does not lose sleep over these vague human concepts.

And this brings me to the point of the article: Is Apple in the process of losing its magic now that Jobs is gone?

In his excellent book, Start With Why, Simon Sinek uses Apple as an example of a company that embraced the primary concept of his book:

People don't buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it.

Sinek argues that the main reason that Apple has become such a successful company is that its products communicate the WHY of the company.

Regardless of the products they make or the industries into which they migrate, their WHY still remains a constant.

And what is Apple's WHY? According to Sinek:

Apple wanted to give an individual sitting at home the same power as any company. Apple's WHY, to challenge the status quo and to empower the individual, is a pattern that it repeats in all they say and do.

The deep connection between consumers and Apple on this emotional and ideological level is why people have lined up for days to get their hands on a new iPhone or iPad.

Steve Jobs embodied the WHY of Apple. The vital question for the future prosperity of the company is: Was he able to instill this WHY into the fabric of the company?

Whenever Steve Jobs presided at a Keynote Presentation, it was customary for at least one person in the audience to yell out: "Steve, we love you!"

For some reason, I can't imagine anyone screaming that out to Tim Cook.

Therein lies the potential problem for Apple. It is one thing to be efficient, it is quite another to inspiring.

Since Jobs' death, the improvements that Apple has introduced for its products have been functional ones: faster processors, more efficient batteries, Retina Displays on the iPad and the MacBook.

But nothing that really "challenges the status quo and empowers the individual."

The next six months will be critical for the company's future. It has three new products that should launch over this time period: the iPhone 5, the iPad Mini, and Apple HDTV.

These three products have to be inspiring, revolutionary, push-the-envelope, fever-inducing products if Apple wishes to keep alive the magic that Jobs breathed into everything that he did.

If all we get is a bigger screen on the iPhone, or a longer-lasting battery on the iPad Mini, or a HDTV with the Apple logo on it but no industry-disruptive content service, then indeed, Apple may truly be losing its luster.

Disclosure: I am long AAPL.