Wednesday, January 19, 2011

811 Rotten Apple?

811 Rotten Apple?

The big question on the stock market now is “what happens to Apple (NASD:APPL) next. Same question on the high tech market. With CEO Steve Jobs back out on sick leave, the speculation about both what ails him and what’s in store for the company are on the minds of a lot of people, most of whom have no hard information.

First, we don’t know exactly why Jobs took leave. He’s been out twice before, once for cancer and then for a liver transplant. The touchy-feely company hasn’t given us a “why” and seems to be slower than a Cupertino cappuccino at letting anyone know anything.

But Apple is considered a one man shop though about 50-thousand others work there. Still, Jobs is the guiding light. He co founded the company, got thrown out, came back and turned it into a tech giant.

The iPod, iPhone, iPad and the Mac are all mostly his doing. He is generally regarded as one of the country’s leading CEOs.

The questions people are not yet asking, at least too publicly, are (1) What happens to the company if Jobs dies? (2) “What should I do with my stock?” There is, of course, no answer to either of those questions.

Optimists say the company would continue just as it was, with or without Jobs. Pessimists say the stock is not just overpriced, but WAAAYY overpriced. And its propensity to design and build everything in-house and not allow clones could eventually be its undoing. (Think Sony Betamax, the 1960s AT&T “Picturephone” and Apple’s handheld “Newton” PDA, all colossal techno-flops.)

Announcement of Jobs’ latest medical woes, such as it was, came on Martin Luther King Day when the markets were closed, obviously a guard against instant up and down (mostly downward) lurching. But a day later, when the market was open and Apple announced a rise of 78 percent in its latest quarterly profits, the stock still plunged for most of the day, though it recovered somewhat in the last hour or so of the trading session.

It’s sad to see a rock star CEO with his 56th birthday only about a month away suffer all this illness. But it’s the rock star part, not the relative youth that will trouble his company if he can’t come back.


--Where’s John? Sen. McCain, Arizona’s elder statesman, is about the only politician of national stature who has had nothing to say about the Tucson shootings. What’s up with THAT?!

--Starbucks, fighting increasing competition from outfits it considers lesser lights, is introducing a new 31 ounce container for iced drinks, and calling it “venti,” which is 30 in Italian. Will this stop the exodus of customers to McDonald’s, 7-11, and other places that brew a decent cup? Probably not as much as would making the stuff taste like coffee instead of burning tires.

--The tabloids have been reporting this for years, but now it’s actually true. Regis Philbin, 79, is stepping down from his highly rated daytime TV show which has been on the air since the early 1980s. Look for the exit in early autumn.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®

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© WJR 2010

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