"When the smoke clears off this miserable Dell quarter, people will realize that Apple's behind the destruction of the laptop."Right on. The company that Steve Jobs built and Tim Cook can only hope to sustain deserves the credit or the blame -- depending on which "side" you're on -- for disrupting the entire computer industry.
Granted, they'll never be as cool as an iPad, just like a Windows-run Nokia ( NOK) Lumia smartphone will never achieve the social status of the iPhone. But, the combination of Intel, Microsoft and its collection of partners, such as Nokia, will gobble up enough mobile and gadget market share to make a difference. As a traditional operating system, Windows continues to rank as the major player. Moving away from the direct computing space, several companies, particularly new media outlets, have been right there with Apple -- thanks to Apple -- on the new mobile frontier. For example, Pandora ( P) openly credits its exploding success to the iPhone. I discuss why that stock has become a screaming long-term buy in this article. For similar reasons, I like Facebook ( FB) over the long haul, particularly on weakness. A world exists, however, beyond Apple, Intel, Microsoft, Pandora and Facebook (though that's quite a quintet). You can pick and choose from a handful of retail companies that enjoy similar competitive advantages to the ones synonymous with Apple. At the top of the list: Lululemon Athletica ( LULU). Lululemon reports earnings in early June. I tend to shy away from going long (or short) ahead of earnings, particularly on highflying stocks. Although it might be too risky for your blood, LULU remains an exception to this rule. I expect a blowout quarter. Like Apple, Lululemon has momentum on its side. It also has a burgeoning cult following. All too often, investors ignore geography. It matters in this space. When I visit my home in Niagara Falls, N.Y., I see absolutely nobody wearing Lululemon clothing. When I am in Santa Monica or San Francisco, I cannot take more than 10 steps outside without seeing these clothes. In Niagara Falls, I see fewer Macbooks and even fewer iPods and iPads than I do in relatively more affluent and tech-oriented places. The point is that if you live in places like Dayton, Rockford, Birmingham, El Paso and other random outposts, but not in dynamic, trend-setting and populous hubs such as San Francisco, Santa Monica, Manhattan, Portland and Seattle, you might not quite "get" the power of LULU (and, to a lesser extent, Apple).
Call me an urban elitist snob, but it's an important point to consider: To be wildly successful, all companies like Apple and Lululemon have to do is to focus on the geographically targeted, high-end, predominantly urban consumer. Of course, both, particularly Apple, continue to penetrate the mainstream (LULU and AAPL produce exclusive and aspirational products, after all), but there's no confusion about who makes up their bread and butter. If the economy tanks, that core customer will not put off the purchase of $148 yoga pants and the new iPhone 5. Very few retailers can run with Apple on lines of exclusivity, social cachet and pricing power. Lululemon can. And, while it will not thrive because of Apple, it will continue to put up numbers in the billions because it looks more like Apple than any other retailer out there. The beauty of it all is that, unlike the rest of the pack, Lululemon does not even try to emulate Apple. It stands out on the basis of its own merits. >>To see these stocks in action, visit the 5 Stocks to Buy Instead of Dell portfolio on Stockpickr.