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Apple Still a Screaming Buy

This column originally appeared on Real Money at 9:30 a.m. on March 8.

NEW YORK (Real Money) -- It takes a lot to convince some people of the obvious. I was reminded of this when I read a New York Times article about the new Apple (AAPL) iPad Wednesday: "Apple Upgrades iPad With Modest Changes." Modest changes?

The article then went on to specify what these changes were -- all enormous improvements on the iPad 2: a retina display with 3.1 million pixels, four times more than what's on the current model of iPad 2; the 4G technology; the A5X quad-core graphics chip; and the back-facing 5-megapixel camera.

The device is only slightly thicker than its predecessor, and it's heavier by just one-tenth of an ounce. Yet the cost remains steady: $499 with Wi-Fi connectivity and $629 for 4G. (The lowest iPad 2 price point has now been brought down to $399.)

Meanwhile, we can talk about hardware all day, but software is what really drives hardware demand -- and iPad apps now number more than 200,000, according to Apple.

My guess is that this iPad will be a runaway hit, much as the iPhone 4S has been. That latter model was also publicly knocked, at first, because of its seemingly modest enhancements, yet it went on to become a major bestseller. People -- and especially Apple devotees -- want the latest and greatest, and that's evidenced here: An online poll found that 42% of those who now own an iPad plan to buy the new one, according to NPR program Marketplace.

The Times notes that, in the holiday quarter of last year, iPad sales came to $9.15 billion, almost double that generated by Microsoft (MSFT) from Windows software, and close to Google's (GOOG) total revenue during the same period. Keep in mind that, at that time, the iPad 2 was already more than six months old. In view of this, I'm thinking the newest model will provide a major goosing to Apple's revenue and profits. More than one analyst has predicted Apple will sell 55 million iPads in fiscal 2012, and maybe more. In fiscal 2011, it sold about about 32 million units.

In short, I believe if you do not already own Apple stock, it is time you seriously consider changing that. One of my guru stock-picking strategies, which I base on the writings of Martin Zweig, looks at a company's financials -- not the hype about a new product -- and it's also a fan of Apple.

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