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Tim Cook Still Has a Serious Problem at Apple

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- In a trio of articles Wednesday morning at TheStreet, I give Apple (AAPL - Get Report) and Tim Cook credit where it's due for a well-executed iPhone launch event:

Tim Cook Never Said Apple Would Go Cheap

Apple Killed Microsoft: The Media Buried the Lede

Apple Still Doing Some of What Steve Jobs Did Best

The notion that AAPL stock is dropping because iPhone 5C isn't cheap enough merely reflects the cluelessness of Wall Street analysts and the majority of the tech and financial media. However, for as well as Apple did Tuesday and for as much as people who demand "cheap" misunderstand the company, Tim Cook still isn't safe as Steve Jobs' self-anointed replacement.

All Cook did was buy himself some time with the impressive release of iPhones 5S and 5C. In practice, he made all the right moves. The 5S blows away the 5 and certainly the 4 and 4S, setting the stage for droves and droves of upgrades. And the 5C fills a slightly less picky niche with a more fashionable phone that lacks sophisticated style, but, as Jonathan Ive (senior vice president of design at Apple) noted:
It's quite remarkable when something feels familiar and yet is new at the same time. That's the iPhone 5C.

However, in theory, Cook did not impress. His choppy and seemingly uncomfortable presentation -- pretty much the opposite of the ones Jobs show-manned -- serves as a metaphor for what continues to hang over Apple. It's not that Cook isn't confident in what he has done, it's that he still doesn't appear to have a strong handle on what lies ahead.

So if the stock is down on the same old elephant in the room -- Can Apple still not simply innovate, but move the needle with a brand new product like it did with iPod, iPhone and iPad? -- I get that. As happy as we should be with iPhone 5S and 5C, they do nothing to tell us that Apple, under Cook, can disrupt and reinvent another category ripe for the taking.

While I'll probably own an iPhone (and iPad and Macbook) until the day I die -- in fact, I will take them to the grave with me -- that's not enough to keep Apple long-term dominant and a top performer on Wall Street. When buying an Apple product becomes routinely mundane, you know there's a problem.

I buy beer every week. It's an experience I like, but I don't think twice about it. That time hasn't come yet for Apple's existing products, but, sooner or later, it will.

It's simple, complicated, crazy and sane at the same time.

Apple needs to enter an entirely new area of our life and make it better. Make it something we never imagined it could be.

As Tim Cook explained at a recent conference, the living room might as well be a new area, given the lack of innovation there over decades. That's the sweet spot for Apple. A high-end television set blended with its set top box, a home theater compatible with existing Apple devices. That's where Apple can make it happen. And that's where I think it plans to make it happen. Not on your wrist, but in your living room.

And that's why I refuse to count out Apple.

-- Written by Rocco Pendola in Santa Monica, Calif.
Rocco Pendola is a columnist and TheStreet's Director of Social Media. Pendola makes frequent appearances on national television networks such as CNN and CNBC as well as TheStreet TV. Whenever possible, Pendola uses hockey, Springsteen or Southern California references in his work. He lives in Santa Monica.

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