Apple Blossoms Into Boring

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Apple (AAPL) stock has been bouncing around for so long, from $700 a share to $400, to $550 and then $500, that it's hard to imagine it as fairly priced, and as unlikely to move much in either direction.

But that's where it is.

Rocco Pendola's defense notwithstanding, and Anton Wahlman's "attack" notwithstanding, Apple under Tim Cook has become a fairly boring company.

Another iPhone, even an old one? I am not excited. A $14 billion stock buy-back? Good for shareholders, not exciting. Dropping Bitcoin? Stupid, but also not exciting.

Under Steve Jobs, Apple represented excitement. You never knew what was going to happen next. The company was a heroic saga, and it made everyone who bought shares in it feel like a genius.

Under Tim Cook, Apple is no more exciting than a term paper. It's transparent, it makes logical moves, it gives back to shareholders, but as Gertrude Stein wrote of Oakland long ago, "there's no there there."

Even Apple's rumors have become ho-hum, as Chris Ciacca reports. Netflix (NFLX) has a content delivery network. Samsung already brought out a watch. An Apple TV might be exciting, depending on features and price, but to be a really big deal it should have come out in 2012, not 2014.

Cook has transformed Apple, from what Jim Cramer called a "momentum" stock, into what I call an extractive one. Its below-market price-to-earnings ratio of 12.78 is fair because its dividend yield of 2.38% is also low. Its top-line growth has noticeably slowed, down to the high single-digits, its profit margins have fallen, and its results have become predictable.

Apple is not "troubled" in the way that, say, IBM (IBM) is "troubled" because the cloud is eating its lunch, or that Microsoft (MSFT) is "troubled" because its devices aren't selling. What Apple is doing under Tim Cook is working. It's just not doing that much of it.

When Steve Jobs was designing his great spaceship headquarters, which won final approval late last year, people thought of it as futuristic, a Starship Enterprise. Now it's more like the crystal palace Alan Harrington described over a generation ago, a cool, quiet suburban campus divorced from real life, or the Tom Hanks movie Apollo 13, a sci-fi nostalgia.

The problem with Apple is that it's no longer firing the imagination, and the people pounding Cramer at book signings asking about it are like Beatles fans after the group split up. Had you been able to buy into the group's Apple Corps then, you would have been richly rewarded, but you wouldn't have ever heard another "Hey Jude."

If Apple is going to justify its new headquarters, if Tim Cook is going to justify his legacy, we need to see something new, something transformative.

I'm dreaming of a $599 TV-computer that both destroys the cable television business model and brings us a true Internet of Things, with an iOS interface that controls your health, your security, and can find your keys.

I'm dreaming of that, and under Steve Jobs I might have expected that, but under Tim Cook I'm not. All I expect from Cook is to get the money back I invest in Apple today, with interest, from a professional organization that can execute on a dead man's legacy.

Apple isn't going away, but it's going nowhere fast. That could change, but that kind of change is not something investors should expect at this point. Elvis has left the building, the Beatles are not getting back together, Clarence Clemons is not coming back to play alongside The Boss, and if you want excitement you need to look elsewhere.

I wonder what Elon Musk is doing today?

At the time of publication the author holds AAPL.

This article was written by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.

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