Apple showing some signs
Wall Street needed a good reason to be excited about Apple ( AAPL) after the computer maker's
sales warning last night. Unfortunately for the company, nothing of the sort is coming out of its semiannual MacWorld exposition in New York. As always, the buzz preceding the trade show was abundant, focusing this time on the possibility of some exciting new hardware product announcements: a handheld device, a gigahertz G4 processor, a new line of flat-panel iMacs. Sorry. Steve Jobs opened his keynote speech by introducing 45 minutes' worth of presentations by applications developers from companies like Adobe, Quark, FileMaker and IBM. Jobs then unveiled OS X 10.1, the fifth facelift for the company's new operating system since its release early this year, and its first substantial upgrade. The new system offers a number of modest improvements, including DVD playback and better networking capabilities.
There were also modest upgrades on the hardware side of the business. There was the new line of faster PowerMacs, with processor speeds of 733 megahertz, 867 megahertz and a high-end model loaded with two 800-megahertz G4 chips. And Jobs unveiled three new iMac models, running at 500 megahertz, 600 megahertz and 700 megahertz. Those models will sell for $999, $1,299 and $1,499, respectively. The first two are available right now, and the high-end model will start shipping in September, Jobs said. "It was a normal slew of product announcements. There weren't a lot of surprises," said Sanford Bernstein analyst Vadim Zlotnikov, whose firm hasn't done recent underwriting for Apple. "The most surprising thing right now is the earnings." Tuesday night, Apple forecast a "slight sequential increase" in both sales and profits for its fiscal fourth quarter, which ends in September. That will make it difficult for the company to meet its
already lowered sales guidance for 2001. Jobs himself wasn't on the conference call. It was CFO Fred Anderson who was given the unpleasant task of ratcheting down Wall Street's expectations. Each to his own talent. At MacWorld, Jobs was doing what he does best: marketing. The crowd lapped it up as usual, as evidenced by the white noise of the Mac faithful's incessant applause. In one instance, news that the latest version of OS/X would allow applications to launch more quickly had one attendee pumping his fist in the aisle and exclaiming, "Yes!" Wall Street wasn't pumping any fists Wednesday, though. Apple lately was off $4.49, or 17.9%, to $20.61.