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The 5 Dumbest Things on Wall Street: Oct. 22

5. Steve Jobs Makes a Lousy Call

So Steve Jobs was compelled to hop on his company's conference call on Tuesday. And why not? Apple (AAPL) had more than one great story to tell. In fact, it was poised to dominate the headlines for all the right reasons all week long.

We imagine any chief executive would have killed to have had the set up Jobs had coming into the week. There was the company's mindboggling $20 billion in quarterly revenue to report on Tuesday, followed by the unveiling of the ultra-thin MacBook Air on Wednesday. The ball was teed up. The fences had been moved in. All Jobs had to do was swing, make contact and he was guaranteed a homerun.

So what does Jobs do instead? Jumps on the conference call and proceeds to -- pardon the mixed metaphor -- fumble the ball.

"I'd like to comment on the avalanche of tablets poised to enter the market in the coming months," said Jobs. (Uh, why?) "First, it appears to be just a handful of credible entrants, not exactly an avalanche." (Um, had someone mentioned an avalanche?) "Second, almost all of them use seven-inch screens as compared to iPad's near 10-inch screen."

And then Jobs proceeded to devolve into a soliloquy on why his competitors' tablets would be "dead on arrival" due to their fragmented operating systems and their foolhardy commitment to the simply unusable 7-inch screen.

"Their manufacturers will learn the painful lesson that their tablets are too small and increase the size next year, thereby abandoning both customers and developers who jumped on the seven-inch bandwagon with an orphan product," warned the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. "Sounds like lots of fun ahead," said Jobs.

Now ... Jobs may have a point, but when you're the head of Apple and you've just reported $20 billion in revenue for a quarter, is it really necessary to take cheap shots at those who haven't had a fraction of your success -- and at products that haven't even hit the market?

Interestingly enough, when asked about his own business, Jobs' clairvoyance disappeared. "I try to not predict, I try to just report." What a difference a few minutes makes.

And of course, Jobs' comments only succeeded in legitimizing the competition, opening the door for them to introduce to a whole new audience some of the reasons some people don't exactly love Apple.

"For those of us who live outside of Apple's distortion field, we know that seven-inch tablets will actually be a big portion of the market and we know that Adobe Flash support actually matters to customers who want a real web experience," said Jim Balsillie, Co-CEO at Research In Motion (RIMM). "We also know that while Apple's attempt to control the ecosystem and maintain a closed platform may be good for Apple, developers want more options and customers want to fully access the overwhelming majority of web sites that use Flash. We think many customers are getting tired of being told what to think by Apple."

TheStreet Says: Nice move, Steve. Maybe next week you can fill us all in on why CB radios and 8-track players are no match for the awesome power of the iPad.

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