I don't own Apple (NAS: AAPL) stock, and I probably never will.
I don't really like to speak in absolutes, especially when it comes to investing. After all, the best investors aren't those who take a position and doggedly stick to it. The best investors are intellectually agile and are willing to change their position when it's right to do so.
But I still doubt I'll ever own Apple.
Last weekend, The New York Times' Joe Nocera had some stinging jabs for Apple in the wake of the iPhone 5 release, and some of the glitches that have riled up customers. A key aspect of why Nocera thinks the company may have lost a step has to do with the loss of its CEO. He writes:
Part of the reason is obvious: Jobs isn't there anymore. It is rare that a company is so completely an extension of one man's brain as Apple was an extension of Jobs. While he was alive, that was strength; now it's a weakness.
Steve Jobs: No ham sandwich
Warren Buffett has said that Coca-Cola (NYS: KO) could be run by a ham sandwich. That's an exaggeration, but not by much. From year to year, the core products that constitute the Coca-Cola empire don't need to be changed in order for customers to buy them over, and over, and over again.
Apple is in a much different position. Even more so than technology, Apple sells cool. Apple sells wow. Apple sells OMG. As Buffett would attest to -- and he has many times -- investing in technology is difficult. Investing in cool is even harder.
Steve Jobs seemed to be one of those rare minds who were able to combine execution with awesome in a way that connected perfectly with his customers. And, in the business of selling cool, you need that, because this is a homerun business -- there's no room for singles or doubles. With Jobs at the helm, Apple hit a bunch of monster homeruns. Even if he were still leading the company, that would be a tough performance to keep up. Without him, the odds get much longer.
Reading Apple its last rites after a few relatively minor snafus is no doubt premature. Indeed, as my fellow Fool Jeremy Bowman pointed out yesterday, despite the jeers from Nocera and others, Apple appears to be doing just fine. But, while Apple may not actually be stumbling now, its continued success will still depend on hanging onto that fickle, ridiculously demanding crown of cool.
Let's say that you're on the same page as I am -- you admire the tremendous success that the company has had, you think it churns out some very cool products but, from an investment perspective, you're concerned about the challenge the company faces in continuing to stay ahead of the pack. Where, then, can we look for companies with less of that similar risk -- that is, companies that Warren Buffett would agree could be run by a ham sandwich?
Coca-Cola is obviously on the list, and I'd argue that PepsiCo (NYS: PEP) , which complements its beverages with one of the world's largest snack-food businesses, joins it. McDonald's (NYS: MCD) is among this group, as well -- its patronized precisely because customers know that they can go into a location today and get a double-cheeseburger meal, and go in a year from now and get that same (tasty!) meal then. Finally, we can readily admit that Wal-Mart (NYS: WMT) sells anything but cool. Wal-Mart retains its customers based on low prices, and its massive size gives it considerable might in being able to keep those prices low.
There are certainly risks associated with these companies, as well but, unlike Apple, investors don't have to count on a new "wow" product, or innovation out of these companies year after year in order for them to continue to be worthy investments.
The Apple of your eye
The investments that make it into any given investor's portfolio depend a lot on risk tolerance and what they're investing for. A conservative investor who's saving primarily for retirement -- like me -- may be turned off by what I've laid out about Apple above. A more risk-tolerant investor, on the other hand, may be willing to take on the innovation risk at Apple. And, of course, there's the possibility that you simply don't agree with my take on Apple.
No matter what the case, if Apple is on your radar or in your portfolio, you'll definitely want to check out the special report on Apple from Fool tech expert Eric Bleeker. This report outlines the opportunities as well as the risks for the company, and gives you three areas you must watch. Click here now to check out this report..
The article Why I Don't Own Apple originally appeared on Fool.com.
The Motley Fool owns shares of McDonald's, PepsiCo, Apple, and Coca-Cola.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of McDonald's, Apple, PepsiCo, and Coca-Cola.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave also recommended creating a bull call spread position in Apple. We Fools may not 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.Fool contributorMatt Koppenhefferowns shares of McDonalds, PepsiCo, and Wal-Mart, but does not have a financial interest in any of the other companies mentioned. You can check out what Matt is keeping an eye on by visiting hisCAPS portfolio, or you can follow Matt on Twitter@KoppTheFoolorFacebook. The Fool'sdisclosure policyprefers dividends over a sharp stick in the eye
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