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Where Were You When Tim Cook Sold Apple's Soul?

Like RIMM longs, considerable factions of AAPL bulls appear to be living in denial. In the process, they're misdirecting their anger, sending scorn and contempt to me and other people who dare to even wax critical or, worse yet, long-term bearish AAPL. Just look at the comment sections of articles I have written on TheStreet and elsewhere. Folks are taking shots at me on Twitter. It's all very theatrical. It would be funny if it was not so pathetic and misguided.

The Day the Music Died

I get uneasy associating Steve Jobs's death with Apple's eventual swoon from greatness to somewhere between above average and good. My lack of ease has nothing to do with Apple; instead, out of respect for Jobs, his family and his close friends, I hate to chalk a man's life up to his business accomplishments, no matter how amazing they are.

For better or worse, you have no choice. When you talk about Apple, particularly in forward-looking fashion, you really cannot have the conversation without placing considerable, even majority, focus on Jobs.

While some bulls will read this and recent articles and think otherwise, I love Apple. I own Apple products. I have lived in awe of how the company changed the world. I love Steve Jobs's Apple. And Tim Cook is killing the Apple Steve Jobs created.

I can say that I was alive when the greatest American company to ever exist was at the top of its game. Sadly, I will not be able to say that I watched a dynasty reign supreme for a considerable period of time. Apple will never become the corporate equivalent of the Montreal Canadiens throughout the 1970s and the New York Islanders and Edmonton Oilers in the 1980s. They'll stop just short.

And they'll stop just short because Tim Cook, even if he does not know he's doing it, is selling Apple's soul.

Of course, Cook is not doing it on purpose, but he's setting up some yet-to-be determined date in history when, on an annual basis, people around the globe will ask, "Where were you the day Apple lost its groove?"

I'm not sure how it will all shake out, but, given the pacing of Cook's missteps -- some of which have yet to even happen -- we might be looking at a period of time rather than a day when Apple simply stopped embodying the spirit of the times.

From the moment Tim Cook took over, he reshaped Apple in his own name. He took steps that will render the company normal, if it is not already. He should have done everything he possibly could have to keep Apple weird.

Where the Next Boom Is Coming From >>

Instead, Cook caved to shareholder pressure and issued both a dividend and buyback. And now, it looks like there's a real possibility he'll not only produce a mini-iPad, but an answer to the ultrabook in the form of a less expensive MacBook Air.

Too many AAPL bulls miss the point here. It's not about arguing the merits of returning capital to shareholders or doing a particular product line versus not doing one. It so much more complex than that. It's about the erosion of the very "thing" that deserves so much of the credit for Apple's success. It's that thing called culture.

Each time Cook makes a move that is normal, a move that is little more than a reaction to what somebody else wants or other companies are doing, he erodes the abnormal, downright quirky and 100% innovative attitude and persona that made Apple great. He takes on characteristics of and makes the types of moves that define Apple's historically inferior competition. He allows Apple to become its own inferior competition.

Everybody wants a dividend. Cook pays one. A seven-inch tablet sells well. Cook thinks seriously about making one. The ultrabook looks like it could be a real challenge. Cook prepares an answer.

If you love Apple as much as I do, you should not be angry at me for pointing this out. You should be angry at Tim Cook for not doing everything he could do to succeed at the next to impossible task of replacing Steve Jobs.

Unfortunately, Jobs's impact was so unique and profound, there might not be anything anybody could possibly do to stop Apple from morphing into a mere mortal.

As admirers of the company, however, you can assess your anger and send it in the proper direction. As investors in AAPL stock, you can recognize the more than obvious headwinds on the horizon, take some profits, keep an eye on your remaining position and prepare to execute Plan B, assuming you have one.
At the time of publication, the author held no positions in any of the stocks mentioned.
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