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Why Apple Shares Should Continue to Stagnate

Stocks in this article: AAPL MSFT

The Next Big Thing

Apple not only needs continued (re)adoption of next generation iPhones, iPads and Macbooks, it also needs its next new product to be an equally as smashing success. By all accounts, that would be iTV.

Even though Steve Jobs likely left plans for the Apple team on many aspects of iTV, he's not around to micromanage the remaining steps and oversee the rollout. This marks uncharted territory for Apple.

More questions surround iTV than any other Apple launch. Not only does it face stiff competition from Microsoft and others in the living room, it has plenty of other hurdles to overcome. Trouble cutting deals with content owners tops the list, despite Tim Cook blowing off the question at the recent AllThingsD conference.

In hindsight, it's almost no surprise that iPods, iPhones and iPads did as well as they did. They're all superior products, offered at relatively reasonable prices, in a sea of recent tech mediocrity. Project yourself into the future and the sailing will not be quite so smooth for a television set, a panel, a remote control or whatever iTV will be.

In a nutshell, without Steve Jobs around, Apple's share price will continue to stagnate. $644 was a mirage. The stock will not establish sustainable legs, retouch its highs and hit the overly optimistic consensus price target of $713.12, let alone absurd projections like $910 from Piper Jaffray's Gene Munster or $1,001 from Brian White at Topeka Securities.

Guys like Munster and White have become cheerleaders rather than useful sources of information. Munster, for example, wants iTV to come out so badly he floats seemingly unfounded rumors about it on a consistent basis. These two analysts are telling clients and anybody else willing to listen that AAPL will return 58.5% (Munster) or 74.4% (White) over the course of the next year. Sounds great, but they're living in the past.

Until Tim Cook proves he can sustain the company Steve Jobs built and Apple pushes aside Microsoft's emerging threat, don't expect shares to hit a new high anytime soon.

At the time of publication, the author was long MSFT.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.

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