Apple: Fine Without Steve Jobs? Think Different

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- If Apple ( AAPL) news flies under the radar, does that mean it never happened?

Apple pulled an ad campaign that never should have seen the light of day in the first place, yet it barely made headlines.

Credit gigaom as one of the few outlets to report the news: Apple not only pulled its horrific Genius Bar-focused advertising run from television, the company removed it from its Web site and YouTube channel. Many had criticized the ads for showing customers in an unflattering light.

Before you trash me, consider something gigaom mentioned in the above-linked article. gigaom writer Erica Ogg wondered if Ken Segall's critical blog post had something to do with Apple's latest retreat.

In a nutshell, Segall questioned Apple's decision to run the ads in the first place. Segall worked with Jobs at Apple and NeXT. In his Twitter bio, he describes himself as a "former Apple ad guy." So, he has some street cred.

His piece makes me think of my favorite Steve Jobs' quote: You worry about the back covers, I'll worry about the front covers. If you don't understand that bit of Jobsian wisdom without an explanation, you won't understand it with one.

I know it's tough to pay attention to the warning signs during such a bullish trend, but someday, things will much more clear in the rearview mirror.

The attitude of AAPL longs brings to mind the 1980s party scene. People ran around doing a bunch of cocaine not considering the long-term consequences. When you're lining up your next hit on a glass table top, you don't think much about crashing and burning. When it happens, however, it can catch you off guard; and sometimes, you lose everything.

Addicts tend to look back with fondness at that one friend who told them, at the very least, to slow down.

The most ardent AAPL bulls are addicted to Apple stock. Presently, that's a good addiction; a bit like an addiction to exercise rather than a hard drug.

It's difficult to blame AAPL bulls. It's tough to question their criticism of my calls for caution. I sold the stock way back around $350. There's no doubt -- I have missed the mark on several near-term AAPL calls. Unlike so many others in the financial media, I have no problem admitting this. Show me another, including yourself, who has not been dead wrong, dead right and everywhere in between.

That said, I maintain my near-term cautious and long-term bearish stance.

Near-term: Apple must absolutely knock the snot out of the baseball when it reports its October-November-December results in January 2013. Before that, we should prepare for a relatively underwhelming quarter between last month's miss and the much-anticipated holiday report.

Whether this in-between report underwhelms or not really doesn't matter, it's all about the holiday quarter. I've never seen quite so much hype ahead of a product launch. It's off the charts. And this puts Apple in a somewhat scary position. When everybody in the world thinks a quarter will produce beyond smashing results, longs, if nothing else, should pause.

Long term: I prefer to consider the bigger picture because, quite frankly, it's easier to assess. It's also much more interesting. Amid the euphoria of the present multi-year run and unprecedented expectations, AAPL bulls refuse to consider factors that can influence and should tip us off about that long-term picture.

In previous articles, I outline this writing on the long-term wall. (Most recently, see Tim Cook Has No Idea How to Move Forward With Apple TV, but also see more bullish takes, such as Microsoft Can Beat RIM, but Stands No Chance Against Apple).

And, now, add the marketing campaign embarrassment to the growing list of stumbles that might not impact Apple today, but foreshadow a potential fall from greatness over the long term.

With the stock approaching $700, why does any of this matter?

Flash back to the 1980s coke freak desperately searching for an after party.

Emotion has a fascinating way of working itself into stock investing. You're long AAPL. It's kicking rear and taking names. For perfectly understandable reasons, you're passionate about the position. The best mistake you can make is to detach yourself from the hysteria and take some profits.

Because, if my long-term bearish outlook pans out and the stock follows, more than a few longs will dig their respective heels in. They will check their cost bases and claim they'll sell if AAPL falls (insert arbitrary percentage here).

However, as it falls those profits you thought you were about to bank erode. You hold out for a rebound to recover a few bucks. The stock drops more. Before you know it, your profit pales in comparison to what it once was, you're sitting at breakeven or, worse, you're holding an on-paper loss.

I've seen it happen a million times, to me and those around me on and offline. It's not pretty. The victim a) blames everybody but himself for the misstep, but b) secretly regrets not taking some money off of the table when it looked like the dumbest possible move.

At the time, maybe it was, but fortunes change fast in tech as well as the stock market.

At the time of publication, the author held no position 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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