NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- This past Friday morning, TheStreet published my article, Why Apple's iTV (or Whatever It Will Be) Will Fail, at 9:15 a.m., Eastern Time.
Exactly 57 minutes later, the
the article interspersing their own misguided critique. It took no less than five minutes for comments loaded with gushing Apple love to roll in. Of course, these responses -- almost each and every one -- contain the standard misrepresentations of points, name calling and personal attacks.
The children who take the time to comment on Apple articles these days look almost exactly like what used to be the craziest stock cult on the Internet: The tortured legion of
At one time, Apple discussions contained clearheaded and civil discourse. Even if a reader thought the author was off-base, the dialogue rarely dipped below the lowest common denominator, a standard set by the compound-dwelling SIRI maniacs. Those days are long gone.
The swift response to any and all even somewhat bearish takes on Apple is reminiscent of how the SIRI bulls mass when they perceive an attack. I
their M.O. last year over at
Within an hour of a bearish Sirius XM article hitting the wire, the SIRI peanut gallery will activate its emergency telephone tree. From there, a handful of ardent SIRI permabulls will act, seemingly on instinct, flooding not only this article's comments section, but message boards across the Internet with pleas to ignore the messenger via, primarily, ad hominem attacks .
To put things in perspective, a tiny percentage of the readership (generally 1% or less) comments on most articles. And, within that small sliver, you see some genuinely solid contributions.
You have to delve into the psycho-emotional realm to explain the actions and reactions of the folks who trot somewhere south of the LCD.
AAPL and SIRI bulls (it's a sad day when you can legitimately group the two together) respond like they do because they seek validation for their over-the-top bullishness. When you discount unique or opposing viewpoints, it helps to have others come in and reinforce what amounts to the filtering process. That is, any information that does not neatly package with your worldview gets not only cast aside, but branded as silly and incoherent.
Interestingly, you do not see Tim Cook or Mel Karmazin react to bearish articles written about them and their companies. That's because they're successful and confident guys, too busy making things happen to look up. I might not agree with every move they make -- or think they can maintain or take the steps to greatness -- but I respect the fact that they are doers.
Allow me to be clear. I expect, accept, appreciate and even welcome views counter to my own. That's the beauty and utility of debate: To use the thoughts and ideas of others to check your own or bring forth perspectives you never or hardly considered.
However, when the pushback becomes instant, automatic, often thoughtless and appears coordinated -- like it does with the average AAPL and SIRI bull response -- it enters absurd territory. It's almost as if the most loyal defenders of a company and its stock feel like management has enlisted them to take care of an important job it has no time for. Guess what? That's not the case. Folks like Tim Cook and Mel Karmazin are probably as embarrassed by the wacked-out segment of AAPL and SIRI fanatics as such zealots should be of themselves.
Investors can learn a lot by watching the AAPL and SIRI circus in action. When it gets to a point where immediate reaction follows any and all bearish encroachments on bullishness, a problem might exist.
While the aforementioned general reason for this response holds in both and may other cases, many secondary reasons help explain specific situations.
A whole host of explanations of the SIRI "problem" present as pretty much obvious to the majority of us not under the trance. I discuss a couple in
published last week on
It gets a bit more complicated when trying figure out the particulars behind the Apple obsession.
I can understand why somebody might be obsessed with Apple. I get why they might be inclined to react as they sometimes do. Unlike Sirius XM, Apple is a great company. It has turned the world on its ear several times over. AAPL stock is a powerhouse -- a dominant force -- that remains woefully undervalued by any traditional quantitative assessment.
It's a great company. It's a great stock. Both, to some extent, deserve passionate defenses.
Personally, I love Apple. I own the company's products. And I will probably buy its new television set when it comes out, even if it is a "miserable failure."
As an investor, however, I attempt to take a measured and level-headed view.
I set the bar incredibly high for Apple because it should be set high.
The most vocal AAPL bulls seemingly wander through life acting like Steve Jobs really was not
after all. They forget that he received almost sole credit for pulling one over on the music industry, as it agreed to effectively kill the record album when Jobs decided the iTunes model would be the future. They ignore the reality that wireless carriers subsidize the heck out of iPhone because it's an iPhone -- a device Steve Jobs conceived and, at the end of the day, created. As I have taken to saying, Apple absolutely
the company Steve Jobs built and Tim Cook can only hope to maintain.
An increasingly large number of AAPL bulls want to filter this statement of fact out, forgetting the tributes to Jobs and all that he accomplished. It's a typical human response. You want to keep the dream alive so stomp on the man's grave who made the dream possible and assign his greatness to the next guy in line. If only it was so easy.
If anybody can turn whatever iTV will be into a reality on par with iPods, iPhones and iPads, then
and a whole host of other companies would be just as great as Apple.
Remember - a miserable failure at Apple might be a rousing success at other companies. If iTV ends up performing at a level even just below iPods, iPhones and iPads, it will be, by the standards you really must assign to Apple, a miserable failure. And, yes, that label applies to the present iteration of Apple TV and, worse yet, that thing Apple calls Ping.
Investors who think iTV is as much of a lock as the latest iPhone and iPad could be in for a rude awakening.
At the time of publication, the author held no position in any of the stocks mentioned in this article.