CUPERTINO, Calif. ( TheStreet) -- Apple ( AAPL) -- purveyor of hip, the gadget maker with the golden touch -- has seen its stock price hit two new highs in the past week. In fact, Apple has been on a winning streak for the past decade, ever since its audacious co-founder Steve Jobs reclaimed the top post. Apple's long ride atop the pinnacle of cool has a can't-miss quality to it; a gravity-defying feel of permanence. But beware of the backlash. While hard to picture now, Jobs and company will one day, maybe soon, fall out of step with fashion. Growth will stall. Fair-weather investors will flee to sunnier stocks. Loyal fans will become embittered. Smelling blood, critics will get even nastier.
It's inevitable. The life cycle of tech giants is brilliant and brutally short. Today's consumer electronics leaders are tomorrow's fossils. In the 1970s, Atari was considered infallible, bringing video games out of the arcade and into the home with joysticks and consoles. But by the 80s, rivals Sega and Nintendo got the hot hand, and Atari was deemed uncool. Cool is the whipped confection that Jobs has built the Apple kingdom on, but even the sweetest empires fall. Apple shares have had a tremendous run, and here are four reasons to sell the stock and bank your gains.
NumbersApple's market share slipped slightly in the fourth quarter to 7.5% from the 7.7% level it held in the year-ago period, according to Gartner. A big hurdle to Apple's mass market success is its incompatibility with PC software, but an even bigger barrier is the shocking contrast in prices. You can buy two PCs for the price of one Mac. According to Technology Business Research, the average Mac goes for $1,309, while the average PC goes for $570.
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NumbersApple says it has sold 40 million iPhones and analysts estimate the company enjoys lavish 58% gross margins on the device. In comparison, Research In Motion ( RIMM) sees 43% margin on its BlackBerries. The iPhone is a lucrative franchise for Apple and its strongest growth engine. But without a new market -- like the one Verizon would open up -- or a striking redesign, holding these peak levels will be a challenge.
NumbersThe iPad price starts at $500 and tops off at $830 with 64 gigabytes of memory, but 3G wireless capability costs extra. By comparison, the Kindle sells for $260 with 2 gigabytes of memory; 3G wireless service is included. Apple shares fell 7.6% in the two days after the company unveiled the iPad. It's clear that thousands of people want a thin, color-screen reading tablet, but it's not clear that millions need it.
- PCs are back, which leaves Macs as the yuppie equivalent of BMWs. Paying twice the price for a computer can only be so cool.
- The revolutionary iPhone is getting stale. No fresh market, no fresh phone. Androids are looking like an Apple antidote.
- The iPad is a not so "magical" e-reader. Expect to hear a lot of: "I spent a cold night in line for this?"
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