Apple Bull Case Laced With Sloppy, Bearish Holes

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- I'm pretty open about my preferences.

I would probably get along way better with Tim Cook than Steve Jobs. By all accounts, Cook is one heck of a guy, whereas Jobs, to put it mildly, had some nasty personality traits. If I needed to hire a CEO or team up with an entrepreneur, however, I would take Jobs in a flash. Even now.

>> Also see: Drop in Apple Stock Is a Crime

That said, there's something that's just not right about Apple's ( AAPL) recent drop in price.

The company blows the doors off of past iPhone sales records. And it's left with the problem every other hardware maker would love to have -- at least 5 million units booked and pent-up demand for tens of millions more. This stock should have held $700 and took off from there, just like it did at $500, particularly with the holiday quarter almost upon us.

That is unless, of course, investors have come around to the short-term moderately bullish, long-term bearish view I have advocated pretty much since Jobs's death.

Follow me this way.

I like to view the world through several lenses. I most often use my perspective of how things should be and my perception of how I think things actually are.

As the world turns with Apple, I have a sense that those two world views are merging. If that's the case, maybe Apple's most recent weakness has less do with short-term noise -- a possibility I endorse -- and more to do with investor confidence in the company's long-term ability to grow and innovate.

In Has Apple Peaked? well-regarded New York Times columnist Joe Nocera explains why he thinks Apple will not produce "another product as transformative as the iPhone or the iPad":
Part of the reason is obvious: Jobs isn't there anymore . . . Apple's current executive team is no doubt trying to maintain the same demanding, innovative culture, but it's just not the same without the man himself looking over everybody's shoulder.

Even bullish takes that beat back against this sort of bearishness send off red flags.

Consider Jean-Louis Gassee's recent blog. I wonder if we accept some of his opinions as fact simply because he's well connected in the Valley.

In response to Nocera, Gassee makes a sound, but incomplete point about Apple's long-standing arrogance:
The Maps demo was flawless . . . but not a word from the stage about the app's limitations . . . no admission that iOS Maps is an infant that needs to learn to crawl before walking . . . Instead, we're told that Apple's Maps may be "the most beautiful, powerful mapping service ever."

Gassee claims Apple shouldn't run around telling everybody how great it is; they should let others do that for them. He stops short, however, of finishing his thought.

When you deliver like Apple has, you absolutely can tell the world how great you are. Bragging only becomes a problem when you talk the talk, but do not walk the walk.

For whatever reason, that's what happened with Maps. Apple put out a subpar product that -- and this is key -- did not come alongside something revolutionary.

That's why the Maps miss stands out as glaring.

More Gassee:
The implication that Jobs would have squelched Maps is misguided. I greatly miss Dear Leader but my admiration for his unsurpassed successes doesn't obscure my recollection of his mistakes. The Cube, antennagate, Exchange For The Rest of Us a.k.a MobileMe, the capricious skeuomorphic shelves and leather stitches . . . . Both Siri -- still far from reliable -- and Maps were decisions Jobs made or endorsed.


There's lots in there that I guess we're supposed to accept as fact just because we're hearing it from Gassee. That's too bad because he leaves out key points that might ding his thesis.

In particular, Jobs' most recent mistakes came alongside the introduction of revolutionary products. We're talking about a period that not only saw the iPod, iPhone and iPad, but an unprecedented MacBook resurgence. You can throw an interception or two when you're turning in Joe Montana-like performances.

In his defense of the Maps debacle, Philip Elmer-DeWitt makes an imprecise point (via Fortune) that also appears to have passed muster minus critical review.

After discounting Nocera's Jobs-Cook assertion, DeWitt says,
Besides, the decision to pull the plug on Google's mapping database at the end of what was probably a five-year contract had to have been made while Jobs was running the company.

First, I take exception to the imprecise "probably." And the "had to have been made while Jobs was running the company." He stopped running the company on Aug. 24, 2011. And, who knows, to what extent he was involved prior to that?

But, that aside, Elmer-DeWitt confounds the issue. While Jobs might have endorsed ending the Google ( GOOG) relationship, he surely did not approve an inferior application as the replacement.

Heck, Apple released Siri (at least they called it a beta version) in late 2011. Elmer DeWitt's colleague at Fortune, Adam Lashinsky, reported that "a former Apple insider" told him that "Steve would have lost his mind over Siri."

Apple bulls accuse those of us who, admittedly, obsess over Steve Jobs of living in the past. I don't deny the charge; however it works both ways.

Gassee, Elmer-DeWitt and other optimists just live in a different type of past. One that ignores the present reality and mid- to long-term implications of the death of a once-in-a-lifetime leader and entrepreneur.

Based on today -- looking at valuation and iPhone 5 -- there's no question that analyst and media noise halted AAPL's run into the $700s.

However, despite Apple's present-day dominance, the long-term bull case clearly has holes in it.

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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