Wow, Was I Wrong About Apple


Earlier this year, I made a few bold CAPScalls. Of course, as with many moves one might consider "bold," you can find yourself boldly wrong.

I put red-thumb, underperform calls on Apple (NAS: AAPL) and Netflix (NAS: NFLX) , two stocks that have long been among individual investors' favorites. This was despite the fact that I had previously called out both stocks with "outperform" ratings in the Motley Fool's CAPS database for years.

I'm a big believer in the importance of allowing for changes of heart in investing. I started to seriously wonder whether Apple was simply losing its core.

I was put off by Apple's new dividend and share-buyback plans, which reminded me of companies heading closer to the slower growth inevitability of many huge corporate entities. I also fretted about the loss of Steve Jobs, who long led this company to build products full of beauty and innovation, not to mention his knack for knowing exactly where computing was going. How could anyone ever replicate his style and vision? It was a worthwhile question to ask.

Today, it looks as if I spoke too soon.

Now that it's been a year since Tim Cook took the helm, business still looks pretty lively for the iGiant, as my colleague Evan Niu recently outlined. Products such as the iPhone and iPad continue to be hot commodities among consumers, and Cook may be bringing a new era of openness and even shareholder friendliness to the company.

On the competitive front, those who used to scoff at the idea that Apple could ever unseat Microsoft's (NAS: MSFT) computing domination aren't laughing now. In fact, the iPhone line brings more revenue to Apple than Microsoft rings up in sales of all of its products.

I haven't always thought Apple did a particularly bang-up job with corporate social responsibility, but it's made some strides in that area recently, too. It recently got high marks for making moves that should reduce the use of conflict minerals in its supply chain, and my colleague Justin Loiseau pointed out that it's making headway in dealing with the blight having to do with controversial Chinese supplier Foxconn, as illustrated by recent reports by the Fair Labor Association.

Last but not least, encroaching competition in the smartphone market from the likes of Google's (NAS: GOOG) Android was just dealt quite a blow, as a jury in a federal court found that Samsung had infringed upon quite a few iPhone patents, copying some important design features. In other words, Apple got a landmark victory.

And come on, even though Research In Motion's (NAS: RIMM) being touted as a possible beneficiary of the ruling as well, I'd say it isn't even really a contender anymore; the BlackBerry maker's fallen behind the tech times, delayed new products, reported operating losses, and laid off thousands of employees.

As soon as this article publishes, I'm ending my "underperform" call on Apple in CAPS. However, I stand by my belief that Netflix's competitive positioning is toast and that it will continue to underperform, so I'm standing pat on that call. You can see my overall CAPS track record for yourself.

Put your own CAPScall on Apple, pro or con. And be sure to check out our new premium report on Apple that details the risks and opportunities that face the iEmpire. Our analyst is also providing a full year of updates to go with it, so make sure you stay on top of all the key Apple news and analysis.

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Alyce Lomaxowns no shares of any of the companies mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of Netflix and Apple.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of Microsoft, Apple, Netflix, and Google, creating a synthetic covered call position in Microsoft, and creating a bull call spread position in Apple. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy.

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