You're Wrong About Tim Cook's Apple

May 11, 2012 3:16 PM ETApple Inc. (AAPL)76 Comments
Jason Schwarz profile picture
Jason Schwarz

It's time to set the Tim Cook legacy straight. I'll focus my comments in response to the recent critiques of Tim Cook that suggest Cook's Apple will never be able to recapture the magic of the Steve Jobs era. Even Andy Zaky, in his $2000 price target research report, noted that '2014 is the golden age of Apple and the peak growth year. After 2015, growth will stall and Apple will become a mature company-at least for this era'. All those who are forecasting an end to Apple's run of innovation are missing a key point.

Consensus on Wall Street believes that Steve Jobs innovated the iPod/iPhone/iPad trifecta and that he played a role in developing the upcoming interface for iTV therefore as soon as these influenced products mature it will mark the end of Apple's growth story. I strongly disagree. To me, the analysts are too focused on the hardware and too consumed with picking apart the personalities who are credited with each product. If Apple's secret sauce was hardware then the end of its dominance would be imminent. When analyzing the losers in the mp3/smartphone/tablet wars it becomes clear that their failure had little to do with hardware but had everything to do with the software platform. iPod won its war because of iTunes. iPhone crushed Palm and RIMM because of the App Store. iPad is the same story. The foundation of Apple is built upon the App Store. Tim Cook understands this and is ready to leverage it for the next twenty years.

iTV will revolutionize the cable television industry because it will allow users to watch content from a la carte apps rather than preset channels. Take a look at Netflix (NFLX) to see what I'm talking about. What can be learned from Netflix's success in spite of its inferior movie catalogue and less than HD quality? Consumers love Netflix because its format is an application rather than a force fed channel. The Netflix app allows you to search for content and then watch it whenever you choose. Within two years of iTV's release every single content provider, from NBC to the NFL, will offer its own app on Apple's iTV App Store that mirrors the Netflix model. Viewers will use voice search to navigate mankind's entire history of video library; Siri will become the Google search for all things video. Video content providers will be shocked to watch their medium overtake the popularity of written Internet content. Think of it as Netflix extrapolated. In addition, iTV will elevate the way we use iPhone and iPad home videos as each iCloud user will come to cherish his or her own personal version of Youtube in the cloud. The most profitable fabric of it all will be the iAd platform within the App Store ecosystem. iAd was destined for failure in the mobile world because mobile screen sizes are too small for effective advertising. iTV is a different story. iTV apps will usher in a new era of app advertising and Apple is perfectly positioned to reap the rewards. Again, I'm sure the iTV hardware will be a slick piece of cutting edge glass and metal but the hardware will have nothing to do with its success. The real gift of Steve Jobs wasn't the iPod/iPhone/iPad is the App Store model. And that model is just getting started.

Tim Cook's job in 2014 will be to come up with the next piece of hardware to utilize the App Store. Nobody has the software/hardware DNA of Apple which is why nobody has been able to compete and nobody will be able to compete. I look at a potentially great company like Tesla Motors but lose interest as soon as I find out they have no plans to open up the automobile to software developers in an app store platform. I anticipate CEO Cook will come in and release an iCar in 2015 which will end up as a bigger hit than any of the mobile devices. Google already has self driving cars, Apple will match that technology and raise it exponentially by turning every piece of glass into a touchscreen computer with Siri as the brains of the iCar App Store. Google will try to compete but will fail because of their obsessiveness with an open system. Open systems don't work in app stores and Steve Jobs knew it. App stores work best with tight integration that verifies ease of use. These cars will have so much individualized computing power that people might start living in them, especially if they run on cheap alternative fuel. After the iCar it could be iMedicine or even iGovernment. We are living in an age of software revolution and nobody is even close to touching Apple in terms of mainstream appeal.

The moral of the story is that it's time to stop hating on Tim Cook and start viewing him for what he is. CEO Cook is an operational wizard who is the master of the modern day supply chain. His only innovative need is to continue to come up with new pieces of hardware to leverage the app store model. Will we get an iPad mini? Of course we will. It's just another piece of hardware for people to buy. If they'll buy it, Tim Cook will sell it. The underlying truth of it is that this isn't rocket science. Amazing things happen when a company is built upon a sure foundation. Until another company can put a dent in Apple's App Store model this trend is going to do nothing but accelerate.

Disclosure: I am long NASDAQ:AAPL.

This article was written by

Jason Schwarz profile picture
Jason Schwarz authors the popular Economic Timing investment newsletter. His fundamental and technical research has become a primary resource for hedge funds and individual investors.

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