Since its official launch on June 29, 2007, Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) has sold well over 180 million iPhones. Hands down, it's the most successful mobile phone ever launched.
But what most investors don't realize is the huge impact the iPhone has had on medicine.
The fact is, more than any other product on the planet, the iPhone is driving a whole new sector called mobile healthcare, or mHealth for short.
With an iPhone in hand, it will redefine how doctors and other health-care pros work with their patients.
But here's the big payoff: mHealth promises to save millions of lives as doctors use it to detect and treat diseases much more quickly than they could with old-school devices.
These radical advances will undoubtedly make lots of early mHealth investors quite rich.
But don't take my word for it....
A trade group known as GSMA says the mobile healthcare sector will reach total sales of $23 billion by 2017.
Of course, phones and tablets that use Google Inc.'s (Nasdaq: GOOG) Android operating system also could play a big role in the sector.
But at this point the iPhone remains the clear leader in this rapidly growing market.
It's So Much More Than a Phone
That's why I'm glad to introduce you to a startup firm that has staked much of its future on the iPhone platform.
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The Worldwide Developers Conference is Apple's annual event aimed at those who write apps for Macs, iPhones and iPads.
WWDC's "grabber" product is the next generation MacBook Pro. This very thin laptop -- 0.71 inches - features the same high-resolution Retina display technology as the iPhone 4s and the third-generation iPad. It adds ports using the new USB 3.0 standard as well as Intel Corp.'s (Nasdaq: INTC) developed Thunderbolt technology.
Of course, all the fancy new bells and whistles come at a price - this fancy new MacBook Pro starts at $2,199.
Apple also unveiled upgrades to the rest of its MacBook line, which were all blessed with Intel's new "Ivy Bridge" chipset in addition to USB 3.0.
The popular MacBook Air also got something unexpected: a $100 price cut on both base models. That puts Apple's cheapest laptop at $999, a clear attempt to better compete with "ultrabooks" - the MacBook Air's Windows PC imitators.
Contrary to rumors, a new Mac Pro desktop did not appear at WWDC 2012. Perhaps the changes are major enough to warrant a separate "Apple event" later in the year.
But given the absence of any catastrophic bad news, why is AAPL stock tumbling? And where will it stop?
It's important to note off the bat that Apple's fundamentals are just as strong as they were last fall when the stock began its huge run-up from just under $400 to $636.23 on April 9 (it hit an intraday high of $644 on April 10).
In short: Apple still expects to make a mountain of profit this year. Apple still has over $100 billion in cash with no debt. The company's price/earnings ratio is about 13.50 for the trailing 12 months and its forward P/E just 10.
So something else must be driving down Apple stock. Some of it is logical, some of it emotional - but none of it permanent.
Let's take a closer look:
- A Parabolic Rise: First and foremost, AAPL simply rose too far too quickly. Rapid gains beg profit-taking.
Although both retailers have already been selling Apple merchandise, the new "micro-stores" will expand the current offerings (with the exception of Mac computers) and create a product experience more akin to an Apple Store.
Several dozen more micro-stores are planned, though the rollout will be gradual.
Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster said Apple's long-term goal isn't so much to stuff a micro-store into every Wal-Mart and Target, but to place them strategically in rural areas many miles from the mostly urban, wildly successful mall-based Apple Stores.
"We always talk about growth outside the U.S.," Munster said on CNBC recently. "The reality is, just look in our backyard. There's still a growth opportunity that no one's talking about, which is kind of outside the urban areas."
The allure for Wal-Mart and Target is the extraordinary foot traffic Apple products can generate. They're hoping that customers who come to shop for Apple products will stick around to buy other merchandise.
If the strategy works, both Apple and the big retailers win. But, as the saying goes, the devil is in the details.
In fact, Apple is no stranger to what can go wrong with the store-within-a-store concept.