Apple Cloud Bores Investors, But Sets New Path

SAN FRANCISCO ( TheStreet) -- Following Apple's ( AAPL) cloud and other software announcements Monday, the gadget maker's stock is down about 3% over the past two days, highlighting investors' disappointment in the lack of hardware-based excitement the firm is known for fostering in past WWDC confabs.

Analysts, however, applauded the news, saying that iCloud is one of Apple's most important product launches of recent years.

"While it is unlikely to move the financial needle at Apple anytime soon, we believe iCloud is significant as it increases the stickiness of the Apple ecosystem," said Brian Marshall, an analyst at Gleacher & Company, in a note released on Tuesday.

"We believe the tight integration of Apple's Mac OS, iOS, and iCloud offerings creates an extremely sticky customer base," said Michael Walkley of Canaccord Genuity. "As such, we believe a growing and loyal user base will result in strong devices sales and earnings growth for the next several years."

iCloud tightens the relationship between the tech giant and its customers, who can now tap into Apple's IT infrastructure for souped-up services such as cloud-based document storage and iTunes in the cloud. With wireless syncing across all Apple devices, the Cupertino, Calif.-based firm is also making it easier for consumers to share cloud-based information across multiple gadgets.

"This announcement substantially enhances the value of the platform," said Bill Shope, an analyst at Goldman Sachs, adding that managing multiple iOS products is now much easier. "Most important, we believe that Apple's cloud offerings require cutting-edge compute infrastructure and a tightly integrated platform, which few companies will be able to fully replicate."

This is hardly a surprise to anyone who has followed the mysteriously rapid expansion of the company's new data center in Maiden, N.C., something which Steve Jobs highlighted during his keynote on Monday. To emphasize the vast size of the Maiden site, the Apple CEO pointed to an aerial image of the data center where two people appeared like tiny specks on its roof.

In the absence of any shiny new gadgetry, Jobs was the real star of WWDC. Doing his utmost to make the cloud seem sexy, the iconic Apple chief urged users to move the center of their "digital lives" to the cloud, demoting the PC -- and the Mac -- to being "just a device." Jobs also made great play of iCloud's ability to integrate seamlessly with a user's apps, explaining in his typical fashion that "it just works."

With devices built around Google's ( GOOG) Android operating system growing in popularity, Apple is trying to re-invent itself as much more than just a gadget maker. By layering additional services on top of products such as the iPhone and iPad, Apple is opening the door to new revenue in the future. One such example is streaming movies, which while absent from Monday's announcements, is a topic that the company is rumored to be working on via discussions with major Hollywood studios.

Brian White, an analyst at Ticonderoga Securities, said that iCloud, along with the new version of Mac OS X and iOS 5, will also bolster Apple's arsenal against its mobile device rivals.

"These new announcements further strengthen Apple's digital ecosystem by providing consumers with increased functionality, enhanced ease of use, greater efficiency and cool new features that we believe will drive further adoption of Apple devices in the future," he said, in a note released on Tuesday.

Apple, of course, also wants to head off the challenge of Amazon ( AMZN) and Google, which already have established online music services. Jobs aimed a couple of quick digs at the rival companies during his keynote, drawing unfavorable comparisons between their offerings and Apple's new iTunes Match. Google's Music Beta, he said -- somewhat derisively -- has not even been launched yet.

Apple shares were dipping $2.94, or 0.88%, to $335.01 on Tuesday.

--Written by James Rogers in San Francisco.

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