Nasdaq: AAPL Stock
As often happens with Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) product introductions, many had hoped for more whiz-bang new features.
"Apple's Phone has been a trendsetter for half a decade. Now the question is whether it can avoid becoming a bore," lamented The Wall Street Journal.
The Apple iPhone 5 did get a bigger 4-inch screen, 4G LTE connectivity, and a faster A6 processor. But months of rumors and speculation had raised expectations for more dramatic enhancements.
Apple easily could have included some of those much-desired features, such as a mobile wallet chip (also known as NFC, or near-field communications), wireless battery charging, or biometric security (using your voice or fingerprint).
Amid the din of criticism, few are asking why Apple would leave such goodies out of the iPhone 5.
It could be as simple as the new stuff just didn't all fit in the case - the iPhone 5 is the thinnest and lightest version yet, after all.
Maybe the technology just doesn't work right yet.
But maybe, just maybe, Apple decided to hold a few plum features out of the iPhone 5 because it's mulling a major change to its iPhone business.
What if Apple has decided to modify its upgrade cycle to two iPhones a year instead of just one?
In that case, holding out a few juicy features for a late April-early May upgrade is strategic genius.
Brewing for months, the patent trial officially began on Monday with jury selection. Apple is suing Samsung for $2.5 billion in damages, accusing the Korean company of "slavishly copying" both the hardware and software of its iPhone design.
Samsung has emerged as the biggest threat to the iPhone's continuing growth. Samsung sold 50 million smartphones in the June quarter, by far the most of any vendor.
Meanwhile, AAPL reported sales of just 26 million iPhones in its June quarter - a major concern since Apple gets more than half of its revenue and profits from the iPhone.
Samsung has countersued, claiming the iPhone infringes on patents it holds that enable all smartphones to function. Samsung wants a 2.4% licensing fee for each iPhone sold, which would cost Apple a whopping $2 billion per year.
The ferocity of the fight stems from what's at stake. Both want to dominate the rapidly growing market for mobile computing devices -- smartphones and tablets.
"This is a cage match for rights to one of the most lucrative markets in the world," Colin Gillis, an analyst at BGC Financial, told the Los Angeles Times. "They're fighting on everything: They're fighting on innovation, they're fighting on price, they're fighting in the courts."
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.
Or the tech giant could blow its chance and wind up paying billions of dollars in licensing fees.
The outcome hinges on how Apple deals with a little-known company based in Sweden.
This micro-cap just happened to file a patent for the "swipe-to-unlock" touchscreen gesture in 2002 - three years before Apple filed its patent.
The company, Neonode (Nasdaq: NEON), received its U.S. patent in January.
Neonode holds a number of touchscreen-related patents that could become decisive in several of Apple's mobile computing patent cases.
Already the "swipe-to-unlock" patent helped Samsung defeat Apple in a recent patent case in the Netherlands. Samsung said the patent, as well as a phone Neonode released in 2005, represented "prior art."
"Apple just shot itself in the foot and all the blood is going to go to NEON," Jim Altucher, managing director of Formula Capital and well-known investor, wrote in a blog post Tuesday evening.
Insiders told The Wall Street Journal in April that Samsung plans to use the Neonode patent in a similar but much more crucial case in San Jose, CA, scheduled for a July trial.
And Altucher added a scarier prospect for Apple.
If Neonode does indeed hold the patent trump card for "swipe-to-unlock," it could gun for a cut of Apple's profits by filing its own patent case.
Should Apple be forced to fork over licensing fees to Neonode, it could cost the Cupertino, CA, company billions of dollars a year.
So far all this sounds like a big mess for AAPL and a big opportunity for its patent war rivals. Not just Samsung, but also for such titans as Google Inc. (Nasdaq: GOOG) and Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT).
Yet if Apple acts boldly, it could gain a crucial advantage on its mobile computing competitors.
With its massive market cap, trend-setting products, and global brand recognition, it is easy to argue Apple belongs as much or more than any of the current tech companies in the index.
In fact, Apple has superseded all of them, particularly Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ) and Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT).
Yet the Dow Jones has ignored Apple while letting far weaker companies like, Bank of America Corp. (NYSE: BAC)and Alcoa Inc. (NYSE: AA) remain.
So what gives?...
In a nutshell, Apple stock is too rich for the Dow Jones Industrial Average.
Because the Dow Jones is price-weighted, Apple's current $565 share price would simply overwhelm the index.
If included, Apple stock would account for about 25% of the Dow Jones. That's more than double the 11.5% of current leader International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE: IBM).
"It wouldn't be the Dow Jones Industrial Average," Nicholas Colas, chief market strategist at ConvergEx Group told the Associated Press. "It would be the Apple Plus Some Other Stuff Index."
In this case, a price move of just 5% in Apple stock could push the DJIA up - or down - about 200 points.
Looking at it another way, had Apple been added to the Dow Jones in 2009 instead of Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), the Dow would now be over 15,000.
That's well above the Oct. 2007 record of 14,164 and 2,500 points higher than where it stands today.
With that kind of heft, it's no wonder the Dow has shunned Apple.
How the Dow Jones Industrial Average WorksBut it's not just Apple. Other Dow candidates trade high in the triple digits as well.
Over the past year, the two tech titans have filed dozens of patent infringement lawsuits against each other in 10 countries. Most seek to block the sale of one or more of the other's smartphone and tablet products.
The biggest case, filed in San Jose, CA, is scheduled for a July trial, which U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh is desperate to avoid. (She called the case "cruel and unusual punishment" for the jury.)
Earlier this week Koh ordered the CEOs of both Apple and Samsung to meet in mediation sessions, but nothing came of the meetings.
The mutual stubbornness makes sense when you realize what's at stake.
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.
For instance, the original iPod wouldn't have been possible without Toshiba's innovative 1.8-inch hard drive.
And when Steve Jobs learned about Gorilla Glass in 2006, he convinced Corning to revive the largely unused technology so Apple could put it in the iPhone.
So it's no surprise that Apple has been toying with yet another breakthrough technology.
It's called Liquidmetal.
Liquidmetal is a family of metal alloys that combines a variety of metallic elements. It's a technique that rapidly cools the mixture into a "metallic glass" with a distinctly different molecular structure than conventional metals. It becomes amorphous, as opposed to crystalline.
That amorphous structure is the secret behind Liquidmetal's many remarkable properties.
Now imagine what Apple could do with a material that:
- Is five times as strong as aluminum and twice as strong as titanium;
- Is three times as elastic as ordinary metals;
- Is highly resistant to corrosion;
- Is highly resistant to scratching and wear;
- Has a fingerprint-resistant, glossy finish that needs no polishing;
- And can be blow-molded like glass or injection-molded like plastic.
Invented in 1992 as part of a joint project between NASA, the California Institute of Technology and the U.S. Department of Energy, Liquidmetal creates vast new possibilities - particularly in the hands of a company as innovative and resource-rich as Apple.
As NASA's web page for spinoff technologies puts it:
"In the same way that the inventions of steel in the 1800s and plastic in the 1900s sparked revolutions for industry, [this] new class of amorphous alloys is poised to redefine materials science as we know it in the 21st century."
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Apple earned $12.30 a share on revenue of $39.2 billion, compared to analyst expectations of $9.99 a share on $36.6 billion. In the year-ago quarter Apple earned $6.40 a share on revenue of $26.67 billion.
Apple sold 35.1 million iPhones in the quarter, well beyond the 30.5 million analysts had projected.
AAPL stock had fallen in recent days when U.S. carriers AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and Verizon Communications (NYSE: VZ) both reported significant declines in their quarterly iPhone sales. The reports raised concerns, unfounded as it turned out, that iPhone sales would miss.
That's one reason why the news was greeted enthusiastically in after-hours trading. AAPL was up $41, or 7.29%, within 30 minutes of the earnings announcement.
With Apple having such an outsized influence on the markets, even investors who don't hold the stock will be watching for Apple's Q2 earnings report after the closing bell today (Tuesday).
Still, with its stock having tumbled 11% in the past two weeks, from its peak of $640 April 10, Apple needs to beat Wall Street expectations.
If Apple earnings disappoint -- as occurred in the September quarter last year -- the stock will get beaten down even further. Such negative news would push the stock toward $500.
The consensus estimates for Apple's Q2 earnings are $9.99 per share on revenue of $36.6 billion, which most analysts believe is achievable.
In fact, just in the past week several analysts, such as Shaw Wu of Sterne Agee and Bill Shope of Goldman Sachs, again raised their estimates for iPhone and iPad sales.
However, Money Morning Chief Investing Strategist Keith Fitz-Gerald isn't so sure.
But Strike Force Editor Keith Fitz-Gerald saw the sell-off coming.
In fact, he predicted it.
Back on March 27, Keith wrote a lead story for Money Morning in which he articulated seven very clear reasons that investors should consider shorting Apple's stock.
And that was a couple of weeks after he detailed a "put" option strategy - in essence, a "short" trade - that resulted in a 47% profit (in just two days, no less) for the subscribers of his Strike Force trading service who followed his recommendation (a short-term reversal delivered those gains).
I wanted to know what tipped him off that a reversal was coming - as well as what he was predicting for Apple's shares going forward.
"BP, it was clear to me that this kind of reversal was coming - and sooner rather than later," Keith said during a private briefing late last week. "The shares had soared 75% in just five months - one analyst actually described the performance as "euphoric.' Suddenly, we're seeing all these mainstream-news-media stories explaining why Apple shares are going straight to $1,000. But I know from my own experience as a professional trader that even the shares of the best companies on earth don't go straight up. I happened to time it perfectly and help Strike Force subscribers take advantage of the reversal I just knew was in the offing."
Key Questions for Apple StockThe way we see it, the Apple stock sell-off raises these three key questions for investors:
- No. 1: What's going to happen to Apple shares in the near-term?
- No. 2: If the stock is headed for a volatile stretch, is there any way to profit until the smoke clears?
- No. 3: What's the long-term outlook for Apple - both the company and the stock?
Here's what Keith had to say.
Apple announced Monday that starting in September, it will pay a $2.65 quarterly dividend.
Apple also announced a $10 billion stock buyback program to be conducted over three years, beginning in September.
The stock buyback was a bigger surprise to analysts. While too small to move the stock significantly, Apple CEO Tim Cook said the intent is to avoid earnings-per-share dilution from future shares issued to reward employees.
The Cupertino, CA company's enormous pile of cash and investments - over $97 billion as of the end of 2011 - had led to increasingly strident calls for an Apple dividend in recent years.
Yet despite today's investor-friendly moves, some think Apple could have done more.
The meteoric rise in Apple Inc.'s (Nasdaq: AAPL) stock price is distorting the major benchmark indexes, including the Nasdaq-100, the Nasdaq Composite, and the S&P 500.
That is still true even though the Nasdaq executed a "special rebalancing" of its Nasdaq-100 tech-heavy index to reduce Apple's 20% weighting down to 12% last April.
With Apple's impact on the Nasdaq 100 now approaching 17% (that's greater than Google Inc. (Nasdaq: GOOG), Amazon.com Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN) and Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC)...combined), it's only a matter of time before another rebalancing takes a bite out of Apple's influence on this important index.
The problem isn't that Apple's share price has been so strong.
It's that investors may be unaware that the Nasdaq 100's rise and the Nasdaq Composite's jump to new 10-year highs wouldn't have been remotely possible without Apple's 60%+ gain since last summer.
Instead, investors need to understand Apple's impact on these market barometers and pay more attention to the core movements in those markets, not just the shine of a single stock.
Apple's Gigantic ImpactApple's outsized impact on the Nasdaq-100 (NDX), which is a 100-stock index of the largest domestic and international non-financial companies listed on the Nasdaq, impacts in equal measure the popular $32 billion PowerShares QQQ Trust (Nasdaq: QQQ). The QQQ is an ETF based entirely on the NDX.
Apple's nearly 17% weighting in the NDX causes the NDX and the QQQ ETF to be closely correlated to Apple's stock whenever it makes a big move up or down.
The NDX (and by extension the QQQ ETF) is also a sub-set of the Nasdaq Composite Index.
The Nasdaq Composite Index (COMP) measures all of the domestic and international common stocks listed on The Nasdaq Stock Market. The COMP is one of the most widely followed and quoted major market indices.
Apple's weighting in the Nasdaq Composite is 10.6%. Thanks in no small part to this heavy weighting, the COMP is now approaching 3,000 - a level it hasn't seen since November 17, 2000.
But it's not just the tech-heavy NDX and COMP where Apple has an impact.