Former Intel Chairman, CEO: 'Steve Was Apple, Period'

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- On Monday morning, former Intel (INTC) Chairman and CEO Craig Barrett made an appearance on CNBC that flew under the radar.

After discussing Facebook ( FB), CNBC asked Barrett what he thought about Apple's ( AAPL) present and future under Tim Cook.

Here are key bullet points from Barrett, taken directly from the CNBC video transcript of his appearance:
  • "I think Apple has done a fantastic job."
  • "Steve was Apple, period. He had great lieutenants working for him -- Mr. Cook, others -- but it was Steve Jobs."
  • "If the next level can step up, Tim can step and continue the product rollouts, then more power to them."
  • "Steve was really unique. He could take a product which was already in the marketplace, wrap a good user interface on it and market it when everybody else thought it was dead. When the iPod came out there were a million MP3 players out there . . . It was timing, packaging, the user interface. Steve did all of that exquisitely."

    If you didn't actually see that interview, it's worth checking out the video. Pay attention to Barrett's mannerisms.

    I would never put words in Barrett's mouth, but it's safe to assume, at the very least, he subscribes to the near-term bull, long-term uncertain case on Apple.

    Granted, I am a bit more bearish long-term, but I'm not the former chairman and CEO of Intel. So, in one respect, I have more leeway to say how I feel. The last thing Barrett wants to do is create a public relations dust-up like the one current chief Paul Otellini inadvertently started, according to Bloomberg, with Microsoft ( MSFT).

    At the same time, for every bit of confidence I have in my own thought processes, I understand if you put slightly more weight in what Barrett says. However you slice it, the (very well-deserved and spot-on) fawning he did over Jobs, with a "more power to" Cook and company if they can keep it up sandwiched in between, does not necessarily give off a bullish smell beyond the immediate product pipeline.

    Something Barrett said earlier in that piece about Facebook rings relevant here, but not only with relation to Apple. It's apropos to Facebook, Microsoft and Intel. In fact, it's germane throughout tech.

    In terms of a timeline for results at Facebook, Barrett explained that lots can happen in the space over the course of three months. He didn't elaborate much, but I took what he said two ways.

    First, and he said this explicitly, you have to deliver for shareholders every three months. If you don't, expect to get dinged. It would be great if that wasn't the case, but it's comes with the territory of being a public company.

    Second, and I make my own assessment of Barrett's three-month comment here, in that time frame, fortunes can change, for better or worse, over 90 days in tech. Be prepared for anything. Or as another former Intel leader, Andy Grove, told us in his epic book on tech leadership, Only the Paranoid Survive.

    I fully understand that investors tire of the Jobs-Cook comparisons. That said, you cannot ignore them. They're vitally important if you consider Apple from a long-term perspective.

    Three months becomes a year quite rapidly, particularly in tech.

    Sometimes the numbers disintegrate quarter after quarter, as has been the case with Research in Motion ( RIMM) over the past couple of years. Often, it's more about sentiment changing because of a company's competitive position within its space. We continue to witness this dynamic with Barrett's former company, Intel.

    In each and every case, investors can get burnt. RIMM provides the most vivid example. When emotion takes over, a shareholder can do crazy things. Go back and read the defenses RIMM bulls made as that stock crashed throughout 2011.

    We're seeing something similar, though not quite as dramatic, with Intel. When things start to turn south, many investors act in simply irrational ways. They don't take profits; rather, they circle the wagons. They hold. They buy more.

    Instead of protecting once massive profits, emotion triggers the response to buy more on the "dip" because, of course, when destiny takes my stock back up, I'll have an even more enormous profit.

    That can happen to a stock you bought at $300 and saw though to $650 to $700. Profits can dwindle away if you completely discount the possibility that past performance and an extraordinary present are not necessarily indicative of future results.

    When the writing on the wall starts turning into reality, don't let emotion keep you in a position out of spite. That's not a call to sell Apple today. It is, however, a piece of prudence to keep your head on straight and listen attentively when respectable figures such as Craig Barrett can't even stop talking about Steve Jobs.

    At the time of publication, the author was long FB.

    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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