Tim Cook Has No Idea How to Move Forward With Apple TV

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- On Wednesday, one of tech's sharper visionaries, analyst Rob Enderle, posted a tweet that sums up the situation at Apple (AAPL):

... The post-Jobs Apple starting to remind me of the Pre-Jobs Apple ...

Dividend/buyback. iPad Mini. Advertising that focuses on people, not products. The controlled chaos of the Steve Jobs era is gone.

Jobs ran Apple like all of Manhattan's moving parts came together to power its street life. A somewhat unsettling process manages to produce theater in its most beautiful form. Or, as the late urban theorist Jane Jacobs put it in her 1961 classic, The Death and Life of Great American Cities:
Under the seeming disorder of the old city, wherever the old city is working successfully, is a marvelous order for maintaining the safety of the streets and the freedom of the city. It is a complex order ... The ballet of the good city sidewalk never repeats itself from place to place, and in any one place is always replete with new improvisations.

Jobs always knew where to turn next. As he proves again amid the Apple TV uncertainty, Tim Cook has no idea how to proceed, let alone improvise.

It really is the best of times and the worst of times at Apple.

On one hand, nobody does anything in Apple's core better, from computers to smartphones to tablets. Although I do not see them reaching the heights many bulls predict, iPhone 5, the next generation iPad and even iPad Mini should perform well. Nothing tops the new line of MacBook Pros, particularly the one with 16GB of memory and Retina Display.

At the same time, questions linger at Apple. What happened last quarter? Will the current quarter be just as bad? Or worse? Will the holiday quarter live up to the taken-for-granted lofty expectations? Maybe most importantly, what in the world is going on in the living room?

Just prior to his death, Steve Jobs said that he had the whole television thing figured out. He cracked the code! What the hell has happened since?

Earlier this year on TheStreet, I discussed the problems Apple faces as it attempts to make its living room presence more than a "hobby." The old guard content owners and programmers did not cooperate with Apple. Now, as Apple appears to have shifted focus, the old-guard cable companies have done likewise.

As with iPad Mini, Tim Cook is left to do something that was simply above Steve Jobs -- figure out a way to react while others exert meaningful control over the process. When there's even a hint that Apple does not dictate the terms and conditions of the future to everybody else, it's obvious there's a problem.

Something that was apparently figured out under Jobs has become a mess under Cook.

Plus, you have executives (e.g., Ron Johnson's replacement) running around making asinine decisions about retail staffing and later apologizing (via GigaOM).

Then there's a marketing department left unsupervised, evidenced by the TV spot where the Apple Genius fixes tech problems aboard a flight. It looks like a really bad Best Buy ( BBY) commercial.

These things -- very unApple-like missteps -- never would have happened on Jobs's watch. Never.

The present stock price certainly refutes what I have always positioned as a forward-looking argument. However, if you're long, bend back at the psychological forces that encourage you to minimize, discount and deflect this long-term bearishness.

As the aforementioned Enderle said in another tweet: ... that's the nature of "starting", you look at the first indication. Around when Cook issued the dividend we started to see indications of the inevitable: Apple is making the disappointing shift from the greatest company to one of the good ones.

At the time of publication, the author held no positions in any of the stocks mentioned in this article.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.

Rocco Pendola is a private investor with nearly 20 years experience in various forms of media, ranging from radio to print. His work has appeared in academic journals as well as dozens of online and offline publications. He uses his broad experience to help inform his coverage of the stock market, primarily in the technology, Internet and new media spaces. He has taken a long-term approach to investing, focusing on dividend-paying stocks, since he opened his first account as a teenager. Pendola, 37, is based in Santa Monica, Calif., where he lives with his wife and child.

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