Cheaper Apple iPhone Would Trigger Tim Cook's Departure

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- All everybody wants to talk about is the massive opportunity on the low-end in emerging markets. That's the defense for renewed rumors that Apple ( AAPL)will produce not just a "cheaper," but lower-quality iPhone late in 2013 or shortly thereafter.

That supporters of a less-expensive iPhone have to "defend" the idea tells you much of what you need to know.

No doubt, there's a theme to the emails and Tweets I received in response to the above-linked article where I expressed concern over a cheaper iPhone but ultimately discounted the rumors. I don't think Tim Cook is dumb. He will not slum it with a $100 phone made of plastic. Not going to happen. If anything, we have a repeat of iPad mini coming; a situation where people ( except for me) expect low-end, but get a slightly less expensive, still premium-priced, high-quality product.

But, let's assume the rumors are true and Apple mindlessly churns out a cheaper iPhone.

The ring to that -- "cheaper iPhone" -- should scare you. I'm not sure how anybody who has ever heard of Steve Jobs, let alone paid attention to the magic he made, could be all right with the notion of a "cheaper iPhone."

I didn't realize this until late last night, but Wednesday (yesterday) marked six years from the day Jobs introduced the original iPhone, at least according to one story I came across. The actual date doesn't matter. Neither does iPhone's incredible success. It's the qualitative stuff -- the multi-method stock market ethnography -- that counts.

Watch this:

And look where we are now.

According to reports, Apple will release an across-the-board cheap product simply because it can. That stands in opposition to everything that has made Apple the greatest company in the world.

Again, forget the quality products and the billions in sales and profits. The war chest full of cash. The skyrocketed stock price (even after the crash). Focus on the underlying, more abstract, conceptual stuff that brought Apple to prominence. The Steve Jobs' credo that we could do a whole bunch of stuff, but most ideas hit the cutting room floor. We're great because we're focused and selective.

Apple could do plenty of things to make money and open new markets. In the near-term, there's no question the approach would work. With scant competition, Apple will only lose if it beats itself.

Moving away from the core ideas that Steve Jobs cemented as Apple's foundation will not kill the company today, tomorrow or even next year. That's why any mass selling in Apple comes at least a year too soon. However, if you're thinking long-term here, be afraid.

Do not discount the power of Apple as a no-compromise provider of relatively expensive, high-end products. There's something to be said for the fact that not everybody can afford the things Apple makes. Or that some have to settle for an iPod Shuffle. This doesn't sit well with the humanitarian in me, but that person also thinks we have more important issues to worry about.

As an investor, as a follower of companies, as a not-too-geeky tech geek -- from that perspective -- I shudder to think of the mess Tim Cook will find himself in a year or three from now if he effectively spits on everything Steve Jobs built at Apple.

--Written by Rocco Pendola in Santa Monica, Calif.
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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