Is 2013 the End of Apple?

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- TheStreet's Carlton Wilkinson summed up 2013 for Apple (AAPL) over the weekend: It's all about Apple TV.

Funny thing happened on the road back to $600.

As AAPL tanked, just about everyone co-opted my bearish Apple might not be able to win without Steve Jobs argument. While I was flattered, the bearishness used the wrong time frame: It came about a year too soon.

Then, when everybody lathered one another up in a near-pornographic bearish tizzy, I turned bullish, urging investors to buy AAPL on sale during the holiday quarter and predicting an epic run for the stock.

After roughly 10% of upside two weeks after those articles hit, Johnny comes lately again. Everybody's bullish redux!

Very hack-like, yes, but at least they're on the right side of the trade now.

The problem with the recent wave of AAPL bearishness is that it did the opposite of everything an investor should do when people get hysterical. Also, the timing stunk.

You had people showing off charts that had AAPL plummeting to $450. You had Jeff Gundlach going on CNBC (click on "It came about a year too soon" above) touting his short position with a half-right (tax-related profit taking), half-wrong (Steve Jobs is dead) argument.

Our on-demand society wanted answers and there was no shortage of bad ones.

Heck, there's even some leftover bearishness as the stock runs. Why else would people buy Research in Motion ( RIMM)? Optimism over BlackBerry 10 has as much to do with thoughts of a less-fierce competitive threat from iPhone than it does RIM's new OS itself.

When AAPL sank, it was like shooting fish in a barrel. The buying opportunity of a lifetime. There's not a stronger stock on the market right now.

So, it's all good until it's not all good anymore.

As I have been saying for months, Apple's long-term tale gets told in 2013. The large mammal in the room -- Can Tim Cook preside over the next big thing?

Many AAPL bulls want to ignore this reality, but let's face it -- there will be very little chest bumping in Tim Cook's office when Apple reports record-breaking numbers in January for the holiday quarter.

Cook may squawk at people who said iPad mini would fail. I know I will. And we should. As a product, mini was a can't miss as long as Apple didn't cut corners on quality or price. To Cook's credit, it did not skimp.

But it will be like winning the ALCS or the NFC Championship. Spray some champagne on the naked guy at the locker next to you and get ready for what really matters. Apple's fate gets sealed with the launch of Apple TV, whenever that will be.

Wilkinson lays out a pretty objective case on the prospects of Apple TV (link at the beginning of this article). He sets up a best-case scenario where everything Apple wants and needs to happen to produce something even close to as disruptive as iPod, iPhone and iPad happens. You can tell by his early admission and subsequent tone that the Asbury Park resident is skeptical. People from Springsteen country are smart!

I'm on the record as bearish Apple TV.

It's not that I don't think it will be a good product. It will be. Everything Apple does is good. I just don't see any way it can be groundbreaking unless Tim Cook can twist Hollywood's arm the way Steve Jobs did the music industry's.

No matter how poor Apple's competition is across spaces, no matter how many units its iconic products continue to sell, the time to be bearish will come when we know once and for all that the next big thing isn't certain to come.

For now, Apple deserves the benefit of the doubt. Investors should give the company that much and continue to buy its stock for the foreseeable future.

Rocco Pendola is TheStreet's Director of Social Media. Pendola's daily contributions to TheStreet frequently appear on CNBC and at various top online properties, such as Forbes.

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