Posts Tagged ‘Apple’

This is not a Reuters headline you want to wake up to… being put on a Chinese “unreliable entity list.”

Looks like we’re heading for a showdown between everyone’s favorite American president and everyone’s favorite Chinese Communist Party.

And, unfortunately, Apple (AAPL) may be caught in the middle.

Ouch.

Many years ago, someone termed the new leadership in NASDAQ “FANG”… Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, and Google.  Essentially the best of the new tech.

Over the last few years, that morphed into “FAAMG”… Apple and Microsoft got let into the group.  While elder statesmen, there is no doubt that they deserve to be part of tech’s elite.

So powerful is this group that just those five stocks represent 20% of NASDAQ movements.  That is incredible, if not incredibly unbalanced.

And it’s the performance of these five companies that have kept the NASDAQ index from falling like other popular indexes around the world.

For four out of the five companies, the performance has been merited.

We all have to stay at home and have things delivered to us?  Geez, could it get any better for Amazon (AMZN)?

We all have to stay at home and use the cloud to do pretty much everything in our lives… like work… school… socializing… entertainment?  That’s great news for cloud-based leaders like Facebook (FB), Microsoft (MSFT), and Google (GOOG).

So why am I separating Apple (AAPL) from the herd?  After all, our mobile device is absolutely indispensable, right?

Yes, but will people without jobswithout income… scared and uncertain when the crisis will be over… line up for new iPhones come this fall?

I don’t think so.

That is, if there’s even an Apple Store open to line up in front of.

But it’s not just me.  The other day I shared a KeyBanc’s report that iPhone sales in April have declined -77%.

-77%!

No other FAAMG’s business is taking a hit like this… to the contrary, all the other FAAMG’s businesses are being helped by the crisis.

It’s not Apple’s fault that the entire world just stopped.  But it is investors’ fault if they invest in Apple right now.  Because — right now — Apple is getting gutted.

So why is AAPL enjoying the same stock success as these others?  To borrow a phrase from a past crisis:  Irrational exuberance.  

Ultimately reality wins.

Another harsh Apple headline:

iPhone Sales Crash 77% In April, Hammered By COVID-19 Lockdowns

This is from a KeyBanc Capital Markets report, using internal credit card data, as reported by ZeroHedge.

Here’s the mind-boggling chart.  Notice there is no “black bar” for April 2020 store revenues.  Uh, oh.

Apple iPhone Sales Chart

Another uh, oh:  That light gray bar for April 2020 is the same size as March 2020 — meaning no growth in online sales month-to-month — and is noticeably smaller than April 2019 online sales.

So, so much for Apple’s online sales picking up the slack for their closed retail outlets.

There’s data, in no black or white!

So how in the world could Apple continue sprinting towards an already inflated all-time high?

That’s the real mind-boggling question.

Well, that’s not a good headline.  More evidence that, in the short term, AAPL may have too much of a premium built in.

Here’s the link to ZeroHedge’s take on the new IDC global smartphone report.

Everyone loves to talk about how much cash AAPL has…

… I wonder how many people realize how much debt Apple has to offset that cash?

Almost $120 billion worth.  Like 60% of their cash horde, which makes that cash pile quite a bit smaller than most think.

Commenting on Apple’s financials is like complaining after someone just bowled a 300.  They really are perfect.

So, now that I’ve made that disclaimer, I’m going to comment on Apple’s financials.  :)

Well, not so much their financials… as much as their valuation as determined by their financials.  Because I think they suggests Apple has overheated.

A long time ago, the rule was your P/E should be about your growth rate.  Primarily earnings, but people applied this to revenue growth, too, given that earnings was sometimes impacted by operating initiatives.

So, if you were growing earnings around 10% a year… or revenues around 10% a year… you should have about a 10 P/E.

Like everything these days, that’s also been inflated.  Or ignored.  Or convoluted due to a variety of “financial engineering” things.  People rationalize inflating via the term, “multiple expansion.”  But regardless of creative justification, it’s still a grounding rule-of-thumb that offers some perspective.

How does all this apply to Apple?

AAPL’s P/E is just over 23.

Over the last few years, AAPL’s average earnings growth was about 14.5%.  AAPL’s average revenue growth was about 7%.

See the problem?

On either measure, AAPL is overvalued by a good chunk.  Sticking with just earnings (the higher percentage), that suggests AAPL should be trading around $200 per share.

But it gets worse.

Pre-pandemic, Apple’s Q1 earnings were up 19% comparing like quarters.  (Revs were up 9%.)  Still below P/E, but at least you can see that earnings growth was within spitting distance of it.

Post-pandemic, Apple’s Q2 earnings were up 4%.  (Revs essentially flat.)  Now that’s way below P/E.

But here’s the bottomline:  The combined earnings growth of 14% for the first half of the fiscal year doesn’t account for the fact the next few quarters are going to look more like Q2 than Q1.  Due to the pandemic, earnings and revenue growth at Apple HAVE SLOWED.  For real.

And my point?  The shares are priced like nothing’s happened… for an immediate snapback… but the numbers are already saying this isn’t happening.

Heck, even the company said this isn’t happening on their conference call.

Using my old P/E guideline, AAPL could theoretically be valued around $100 per share.

Now, before anyone thinks I’m a stock-hating crazy or something, I don’t believe that will happen.  Apple is one of the most phenomenal businesses on the planet.  They are so big — and so well managed — and have so many levers — that of course they would make adjustments to their business before that happened.

For example, they could cut a lot of costs.  Duh.

Or, if their hardware business ever sucks too much wind, they could just spin-out their services businesses, which continues to grow impressively through this crisis.

You might say that they would never break up their eco-system… but, believe me, it’s a lot more common in business than you might think.  Usually goes under the term “monopoly.”

You might also say that Apple is just too big to have such a puny valuation.  But there are lots of HUGE companies with puny valuations.  For example, massive distributors with tiny earnings.

So, while I’m not saying AAPL is going to $100, the thought that it theoretically could gives me comfort saying AAPL — in the short term — should be trading closer to $200 than $300.

Apple reporting earnings yesterday.

They beat significantly lowered expectations on top & bottom line.

How excited were analysts?  Not very.  Only a few upgraded price targets (a bearish sign), and then only by small amounts (also a bearish sign).

AAPL tried to rally… but couldn’t make it over $300… and fell back for a loss on the day.

There’s a reason why 80% of analysts CUT price targets going into earnings… because the virus has really bashed Apple. 

Here is the perspective:

Apple’s guidance for this quarter was a revenue range of $63b to $67b.

From Apple’s conference call yesterday, Tim Cook said:

Based on Apple’s performance during the first five weeks of the quarter, we were confident we were headed toward a record second quarter. At the very high end of our expectations.

That means they were on track for $67b.  But actually it probably means they were on track for $68b to $70b… since Apple is notorious for sandbagging guidance.

But, with the virus, they only logged $58b in revenues.  (Still a huge number, btw.)

Assuming even revenue distribution through the quarter, the $67b would have been about $22.3b per month… so theoretically the $58b was $22.3b + $22.3b + $13.4b, since the bulk of the virus problems hit in March.

So… if we take $13.4b as what they did in March… and assume an “uptick” for April (as Cook called it in the earnings call)… and assume things don’t really open up in U.S. or Europe until June… and assume a “normal” June… we could guess revenues might be $14b + $14b + $22.3b or about $50b…

… that’s if everything opens up in June and things go back to the “happy go lucky!” good times of Janurary.

Hello?  Are any of the Apple fanboys bidding up AAPL listening?  That’s still a big-ass revenue contraction… like 30% below a ballpark of what their pre-virus performance might have been… when the stock was hitting an all-time high of $327.85.

So why is AAPL currently trading just 10% below that now?

Because the reality of the next 1-2 quarters hasn’t sunk in for Apple investors yet.

Seems to me my simple, back-of-the-envelope hack calculations suggest AAPL should be down another 20%… or <$240.

And that’s not even including what happens if we see a second wave of infections… or if the market, which shot up in April, naturally cycles down 5-10% in May.

My 2 cents.

I’m a contrarian. It’s my observation that when everyone thinks one thing, the real, outsized opportunity is the other.

But what happens when everyone thinks one thing… but the market is thinking quite another?

Take AAPL. From a low of around $212 a month ago, it’s powered its way to almost $290. More impressively, just about 12% from its all-time high.

Heck, if you went way out on a limb, you could probably say that’s even within a normal trading range.  “Has the whole world stopped?  We didn’t notice!”

But all through this romp upwards, most Apple analysts have been decidedly negative.

Out of about 30 analyst moves in the last two months, a whopping 80% of them were downgrades.

To put this in context, Intel analysts were split 50/50 between upgrades and downgrades going into their earnings last Thursday.  So, relatively speaking, 80/20 to the negative side is a big spread.

 

 

As important, some of the AAPL downgrades were double downgrades… that is, a second price-target cut within just a few weeks.

So what’s the contrarian play here? Go against analysts and buy?  Or go against the market and short?

I think you go against the market. That’s the bigger “everyone” in this case.

Going against the market also seems, well, more rational to me.  I love Apple but I think the current market enthusiasm seems excessive given our uncertain environment:  Uncertain when lock-downs will end… uncertain that people will want to congregate at Apple Stores when they do… uncertain when we’ll see a vaccine… uncertain that a 2nd, or even 3rd, inflection wave may hit… and so on.

This uncertain environment is awesome for a select number of businesses… say Amazon and Netflix… but could be less kind to a (mostly) consumer hardware company like Apple.  Not that I’m not saying people can live without their iPhones — they can’t — but I am saying they may be less quick to buy $1,000 upgrades.

No doubt, what makes going against Apple scary is it’s one of a handful of companies that has the business levers to manage its way around a crisis like this.  And they are notorious for pulling rabbits-out-of-hats.

Still, a V-shaped recovery?  THE ENTIRE WORLD HAS SHUT DOWN.  Does a (mostly) consumer hardware company merit trading anywhere near an all-time high?  Does the market merit trading anywhere near an all-time high?  Somewhere in this equation there has to be some p-a-i-n.

I’m not the first person to say there’s a good chance we’ll see another downdraft.  So if Apple does surprise to the upside, AAPL could still take a tumble along with the rest of the market.  Nice to have a backup scenario in this situation.

P.S. A couple of other quick AAPL trading comments:

  • While Apple has done a terrific job moving into services, these are still only about 20% of company’s revenues. Meaning, Apple is still mostly a hardware company.
  • Intel, also a hardware company, has had a similar run-up as AAPL. Last Thursday INTC blew away their numbers, benefitting from the Coronavirus “work at home” situation. Apparently, with mobile being such a huge focus the last few years, home desktop machines have been ignored and needed updating.
  • In contrast, you don’t need to upgrade your iPhone to work at home.
  • One last data point: Even though Intel blew out numbers, INTC finished flat for the day.

Apple announced earnings today… they beat on top and bottom lines… and even though iPhone unit sales missed by a tad, average sales price crushed expectations.

Sounds good, right?

Not so fast.  Apple is DOWN almost 6.5% in the after market.

Yikes!

Turns out guidance came in a bit light.

And, Apple said it was going to stop reporting on unit sales, which — supposedly — signals to analysts less volume going forward.

Here’s what I think:

WHAT IS EVERYONE CRAZY?!

Apple just reported 40% earnings growth.  That’s right — 40%.  That’s spectacular for any company… but a company Apple’s size?  That’s p-h-e-n-o-m-e-n-a-l.

To put valuation in perspective:  Usually your P/E matches your earnings growth.  So if you are growing at 10%, you have a 10 P/E.  So if you’ve grown earnings by 40%, you should have a P/E of 40.

But that’s not the case for AAPL.  Apple has a trailing 20 P/E… or, even more amazing, just a forward 14 P/E.  Which means there is a case to be made that AAPL is undervalued… it could be trading 100% higher… or even 200% higher in some circles.

Further, with a company like Apple — that is, consistent… steady… predictable — is light guidance really an issue?  Especially given that Apple usually gives lighter guidance… and has been doing so since the days Steve ran the company?

I think not sharing iPhone unit totals is the real issue… and it’s not with investors… but with analysts that are tasked to create projection models.

Fair enough, it will make their job harder.

But, seriously, Apple is consistent… steady… predictable… AND growing earnings at 40%… and, btw, growing revenues at a whopping 20%, too… their job is already pretty straightforward.

So here’s what I also think:  AAPL may initially go lower… but at some point the investment community is going to say, “It’s the #1 product in the world, produced by the #1 brand in the world.  40% earnings growth means they continue to knock the cover off the ball.  Most of the macro economic indicators are still intact.  Uhm, are we daft?!”

That’s when the momentum will shift… and we’ll see AAPL move higher.

And, despite what will seem like a stock-crushing open, I think it could happen sometime tomorrow.

UPDATE:  Well, uhm, maybe next week.  :)

I have to hurry this post because Microsoft is about to announce earnings.

For the first time in many years, Microsoft’s earnings are incredibly relevant again.

As many know, MSFT is in the process of successfully reinventing itself… to be a big-time cloud competitor.

Their earnings after the market closes today are important because the market is in desperate need of some kind of clear signal… either that things are still ok in tech land… or they’re not.

It just so happens MSFT is announcing before Apple, Amazon, Google, and Facebook… which means all eyes will be on their report.

Now, Microsoft has a reasonable stage set.  Adobe reaffirmed guidance last week… which I believe single-handled stopped the market from another 5-10% slide… since everyone was/is feeling like we’ve driven off a cliff… given tariffs… and global tensions… and interest rate hikes… and Trump acting decidedly unpresidential most of the time.

And Netflix killed their earnings, too, which even though it doesn’t seem like it, also helped provide some footing in this decidedly negative market.

But some disturbing things are still happening.  iRobot (IRBT), makers of my favorite electronic device in the world (Roomba!), killed their numbers, too… and the stock was still hammered today… simply because they cited some potential tariff impact… even though they still raised guidance.

What the market wants — craves — now is more assurance… that the consumer is still spending… that interest rates, while increasing, will increase in a slow and measured pace… that oil isn’t going to spike… that tariffs are having a positive effect somewhere in the food chain…

… essentially that the foundation for investment is still sound.

A good report from the once most dominate and influential tech company in the world… that has clawed its way back into relevance… could turn everything on a dime.  Stay tuned!

UPDATE:  Earnings were solid.  Beat on both top and bottom lines.  Stock was up almost 5% at one point in the after-hours market.  (BTW, Tesla TSLA also reported and nailed it… it’s up over 10% in after hours… and ironically they mentioned tariffs and it doesn’t seem to be impacting the pop.)

[This is an Apple iPhone Tech Support post.  Totally skip it unless two-step activation has locked you out of your iPhone… and if it has, this may be one of the most valuable posts you ever read!]

I’m writing this after about 10 hours of the most horrible customer services experiences I’ve ever had.  EVER.

I’m telling my story in hopes that Apple fix this… and to save others from the horror I went through.

Background:

I lost the ability to make or receive calls.  WIFI still worked so I was able to get text and email, which actually masked the problem for the first day or so.

Verizon said it had to do with upgrading to 10.3.3, that it could be mucking with the digital antennae or something, and that the solutions was to backup, wipe the phone, reinstall, then restore the backup.

So, I called Apple Support.  They concurred with Verizon and started walking me through the process.

What Apple Support did NOT do, however, was ask me if I was using two-step authentication AND whether I had a second trusted device.

Turns out when I turned on two-step authentication, I thought it was only naturally to designate my iPhone as my trusted device.  Sounds reasonable, right?

WRONG!

This turns out to be DEATH.  And incredibly irresponsible of the Apple Support folks that helped me!

Because when I wiped my phone and reinstalled from scratch, it meant I had to reactivate my iPhone with Verizon… but Verizon requires that I enter in my Apple ID and password and, as the second step of the two-step authentication, the six-digit code that Apple would send to my — you guessed it — inactive device!

I went down Apple’s recovery path… and the automated Apple process told me it would take a few days to add a second trusted device… “for my protection.”  When a few days came, it said it would take a few more.  Then a few more.  Then it said a WEEK!

Before I continue, I want to say that these time estimates were a BIG FAT LIE.  It just kept pushing the date out on me.

And, I want to say it doesn’t matter that Apple was doing all of this “for my protection”… I use my phone for work… and it can’t be non-functional for even a few days!

I literally almost gave up and just bought a new phone… because, after TEN (10) hours of Apple Support help, I wasn’t any closer to a solution.  And — please listen to this, Apple — I was damn close to considering an android, too.

I have no idea why I called Apple Support one more time.  Maybe because I was bleary eyed and wasn’t really thinking.  Maybe because I just wanted to yell at someone.  Maybe because I own Apple stock and just couldn’t believe I was really hung out to dry here.  But I did call one more time, and spoke to Ginger L… and — TO MY INCREDIBLE SURPRISE — she actually had heard of a clever work around for this situation.

And, what do you know, IT WORKED!

Bless Ginger L., she should be CEO of Apple!

Apple, PLEASE FIX THIS.  No customer should ever, ever, ever endure what I had to go through.  PLEASE!
The Ginger L. Solution:  How to activate an inactive device when Apple two-step authentication insists on sending the activation code to the inactive device

*  Plug your iPhone into a computer that has iTunes on it.

*  Log into iTunes and back up iPhone to the cloud or your computer.

*  Restore iPhone to a new phone… initialize phone just like it’s a new one (i.e., chose language, what time zone, WIFI, etc.)… BUT — AND THIS IS KEY — do NOT enter your Apple ID, keep choosing options that bypass Apple ID.

*  Activate your account (in my case, I had to call Verizon).

*  Test that your phone can send & receive calls and text messages.

*  From a computer, log into AppleID.Apple.com.

*  Enter Apple ID and password.

*  Apple will try to send you your second-step authorization code to Message but that won’t work yet.  Click the “I didn’t receive my code” link and choose the “Send text message” option.

*  IMPORTANT NOTE:  Respond to any other text messages you see… because once you restore your backup, you will lose those newly downloaded text messages.

*  Enter code and from your computer and follow the links/instructions to turn OFF two-step notification.

*  Plug your iPhone into your computer and from iTunes restore your backup.

*  Activate your iPhone again (again, for me  with a call to Verizon)… which may require you to enter your Apple ID and password… but WON’T require Apple sending you an second-step auth code to an inactive phone!

There, I just saved you 10 hours of customer support misery!

Apple (AAPL) reports after the bell today.

Everyone expects a miss.  Lots of people have already significantly cut iPhone and rev estimates.  The stock has already fallen about 10% (correction territory) in just the last two weeks… so a lot of negativity is already priced in.

On the other hand, what’s NOT priced in are two biggies:

(1)  Apple is going to talk about what it’s going to do with its MASSIVE repatriated cash horde.

I think this is going to be stunning… since I believe it may be the LARGEST cash repatriation EVER for a corporation.

All kinds of stock-positive things will be discussed… like significantly raising the dividend… or massively increasing buy backs… and so on.

So this will be a positive.

(2)  The market is so totally fixated on iPhone that it sometimes forgets that Apple has other massive businesses, too… like services… like Mac… like iPad… and so on.  And like the rest of tech this quarter, I think those will surprise to the upside as well.

So, my thoughts are these:

The bad news about iPhone is already mostly priced in, which I think minimizes or eliminates the downside.

The good news about repatriated cash usage and all the other Apple businesses are NOT priced in.

So I tend to think they’ll be more of an upside surprise than not.  Which is counter to the way everyone’s going into this earnings call.  As a contrarian, that’s scary but what I like as an investor.

I remember the first Gulf War back in 1991.  The entire world was freaked out, including — especially — the financial markets.

Yet, the day we attacked, the Dow had one of its best days ever.

I remember hearing the phrase, “flight to quality.”  That is, when the going gets scary, the smart move to safe and trustworthy investments.

On that January 18th day back in 1991, it was IBM that people flocked to… IBM being, back then, the most important tech company on the planet.

Over the last few days, it’s been AAPL.

I think this puts a lot of the nitpicking criticisms of AAPL in appropriate perspective:  When the going is tough, the tough don’t hesitate to flock to Apple.

Lots of downgrades for Apple over the last few weeks.  The stock was spooked from a $180 level just two weeks ago to around $166 today.

It has nothing to do with the holiday quarter that Apple is going to report on tomorrow after the market’s close… that, people believe, will come in at record levels.

No, it has to do with how the iPhone X is selling this quarter.  Channel checks with suppliers indicate Apple is slashing its expectations of iPhone X sales this quarter… by as much as half

… which certainly seems like a huge let down given that the iPhone X is supposed to be the flagship product and the first iPhone to crack the $1,000 price barrier.

But… come on, people… did you really think a $1,000 iPhone X should sell in consumer numbers?  It’s not supposed to be a volume leader… rather, it’s supposed to be something exclusive and, quite frankly, unattainable for many.

That’s the whole point… to have a high-end iPhone entrant that (1) makes the device/technology more desirable, and (2) contributes in some way to an even higher overall iPhone family “ASP” or Average Selling Price (which is already the highest in the industry).

My guess is — since there are no negative reports on the iPhone 8 — that it’s not only selling well, but making up for any short-fall from the iPhone X… after all, if they’re not buying an iPhone X, they’re buying one of the other not-so-cheap models.

Additionally, don’t be surprised if some of Apple’s “smaller” businesses — like cloud & other services — make meaningful contributions, too.  Even the analysts that have raised flags on the iPhone X agree that last quarter should be pretty spectacular for the company.

And, finally, I always have to throw in the irrationality of the market:  Apple, one of the most stellar tech companies in the world according to any measure (even growth), has a P/E of 14.2 forward earnings… while the average company in the S&P 500 has 18.6.  If you’re looking at tech leaders, Google has a forward P/E of 28… and Amazon has — wait for it — 168.  Go figure.

AAPL has been beaten down so much by negative sentiment in the last few weeks that I think we might have a nice setup for a pop after earnings tomorrow.

At least, that’s what the contrarian in me thinks.

Long-time marketing/sales/tech guy Bill Campbell passed yesterday.

Not a lot of people outside Silicon Valley knew him… but everyone inside did.  Among his many business feats, he somehow managed to play significant roles at arguably the two most important — and competitive — technology companies in the world, Apple and Google… at the same time!  If ever there was a testament to how good Bill was — or how much influence he had in Silicon Valley — that’s it.

As significant, Bill was very active in the Sacred Heart community (where my daughter goes to school)… not just donating (which he did a LOT of), but participating, too… indeed, he coached a generation of “powder puff” girl football players.  Sadly my daughter will have missed the coaching-experience-of-a-lifetime by just a year.

I always chuckle when I think how I met Bill.  It was at a big Macworld party.  At the urinal.  Just two guys having a simple chat.  No stranger to a locker room, Bill was absolutely a guy’s guy.

I met with Bill in (ahem) a more professional environment when he took over the Claris division of Apple.  My T/Maker business partner Heidi Roizen and I pitched Bill on making our award-winning word processor, WriteNow For Macintosh, the upgrade to MacWrite.  At one point during the conversation Bill took us on a tour of Claris’ new headquarters… mostly empty because the spin-out was brand new… and mostly there were just IT and facilities folks walking around.  What impressed me about Bill was he knew everyone by name… essentially the “little” people… and true to his coaching reputation, high-fived several of them as we walked by.

He just seemed like someone you wanted to play for… err, I mean, work for.

Nothing came of the conversations, but we stayed in touch.  Bill asked me to serve on the board of Great Plains Software (eventually acquired by Microsoft) and, unfortunately, I was in the process of taking a company public and felt I couldn’t short-change my shareholders, things were so incredibly, incredibly hectic.  On top of that Laurie’s dad was in the process of passing away.  Reluctantly, and hesitantly, I explained all of this to him… and to my great relief he couldn’t have been more gracious — and supportive — in his understanding… it was easy to see why he was a true elder statesman.

Our paths would cross from time to time.  Ironically, about 25 years after my Claris meeting, I was cleaning out my basement and found an old WriteNow t-shirt… to which I proudly wore to the next sporting event at Sacred Heart.  As luck would have it, I ran into Bill… and without skipping a beat, he pointed at my t-shirt and laughed, saying something like, “it’s still going strong after all these years!”  Goodness knows he’s had a lot more important things on his mind between then and now… but it brought such a smile to my face that he remembered.

Here’s to someone who went strong for 75 years.  Rest in peace, Coach.

Everyone has already heard that Apple is going to split their stock 7-for-1 on June 2.

People say that it really makes no difference, that it’s purely optical… other than it making some investors feel more affordable.

Well, psychologically speaking, isn’t that a big deal?

But there is also another terrific reason to split a stock… and it surprises me that no one ever discusses it.

Generally speaking, a small beat may or may not drive a stock’s price up… but a small miss is generally a disaster.  Which means a stock with a high price is much more likely to be negatively influenced by a small miss than a stock with a more reasonable price.

Here’s an example:

On April 16th, Google traded at $556.54.  They announced net earnings of $6.27 per share… vs. analysts expectations of $6.44 per share.

Looks like they missed by 17 cents and the stock was down more than $20 the next day… and has slipped even more in the weeks following… a shame for such a stellar quarter.

Had Google split its stock 10-to-1… such that the April 16th share price was $55.65… such that net earnings were $0.63 vs. an expectation of $0.64… because of rounding the miss would have only been one cent … certainly something that feels a lot less.

(There’s that word again — feels — lest we not forget that emotion is a huge factor in short term stock performance.)

Better, without being buried under more ominous headlines, the positive aspects of GOOG’s quarter — of which there were many — may have had more of a chance of being appreciated.

So, I’m very happy Apple is splitting its stock…

… EXCEPT… 7-to-1?  That’s the silliest ratio in the world… 10-to-1 would make TONS more sense… as well as allow for easy comparisons with previous years — we all can divide exactly by 10 in our heads… but I don’t know anyone that can divide 7 consistently in any kind of exact way.

I asked someone in Apple finance what was the story with 7-to-1 and got a, “I have no idea, either!” glance.

Ugh.  I wonder if it’s too late for Apple to fix this?  While I love that AAPL is splitting, it really is absolutely, positively the most silly split ratio ever.

I haven’t had my socks knocked off in a while.

But, I just read a piece from Nat Brown, the founder of the original xBox project at Microsoft… discussing what could torpedo all the game platforms.

Apple TV can.

Huh?

Like everyone else, I thought of Apple TV as being the coolest looking TV ever… something that would have mind-blowing sound… something that would play iTunes movies and music really well… something that could take a reasonable-sized chunk of the TV sales away traditional vendors like Sony and Panasonic.

I think that’s what everybody else has been thinking, too.  At least, that’s the way all the reports read up to this point.

But — DUH — that’s NOT what Apple TV will be about… it will really be an app platform.

And that changes everything.

The iPhone wasn’t just another cell phone… it was a platform for a zillion developers to turn the cell phone into a brand new experience that disrupted the entire global cell phone industry.

The iPad wasn’t just another tablet computer… it was a platform for another zillion developers (including iPhone developers) to turn the tablet computer into a brand new experience that disrupted the entire global computer industry.

Which means Apple TV (iTV?) won’t be just another cool-looking TV…

… it will be a platform for yet another zillion developers (including iPhone and iPad developers) to turn the proverbial “boob tube” into a brand new experience that will completely and utterly disrupt global TV manufacturers, broadcast media conglomerates, advertising, gaming console, and cable companies alike.  (Did I leave anyone out?  I probably did.)

Wow.  Now that’s a cool thing.

What do I mean by brand new experience?  Who knows, that’s the point!  Who would have ever thunk the clumsy little clam shell cell phone and clunky tablet computer would be doing what they are today?

Bottomline:  Will Apple disrupt yet another massive market?  Yep, there’s going to be an app for that, too.

Steve Jobs passed away this afternoon.

What can you say about a guy that will be remembered in history books for the rest of time?

What I’ve always said about Steve:

He is the only person I know that is everything anyone has ever said about him… all the insanely great, over-the-top stuff… and all the “mercurial” comments, too.

I remember the first time I ever heard Steve speak… he gave a talk at the Stanford Business School… and — honest to God — I was so fired up after listening to him that I was — physically — buzzing… I immediately parked myself in the library and for the next hour or so wrote down everything I could remember about his talk and everything I was thinking and feeling.  I wanted to capture the way I was feeling forever.

To this day, I have never been affect more by a speech in my entire life… it was my first exposure to true, pure, unadulterated charisma.

It wouldn’t be the last, though.

I, somehow, was placed in the second row — dead center stage — sitting exactly behind Ross Perot and Steve’s then recently acknowledged daughter Lisa — during the NeXT Computer unveiling in 1988.  (Thanks, Dan’l!)

Steve killed that day, too.  As he did throughout his entire career, Steve knew how to turn on the magic like no one else.

Years before the NeXT introduction, I came to work with Steve at my old company, T/Maker.

We published a software product of his… and wanted to know what he thought of a tentative name, WriteNow.  He — amazingly — loved the name… which, apparently, was quite a shocker because everyone at NeXT said Steve was going to hate anything we came up with.

Our jubilation turned to horror, though:  That name was taken by not one but two other companies.

We told Steve we couldn’t use the name and he said, “tough, it’s perfect, get it.”

I spent the next three months of my life convincing and cajoling and pleading and negotiating.  And in the end, even though we had no legs to stand on, we got the name… just like Steve knew we would.

During those days Steve was definitely a study in contrasts.  He could be extraordinarily tight-fisted… then turn around and pay designer Paul Rand $100K — a fortune back then — for the NeXT logo… its claim to fame, of course, the small, soft “e” — emphasizing “education” — sitting next to the other three big, stark, cap letters.

And that was worth $100K??

Didn’t matter… as always, image — branding — was everything.

I got in one drag-down, knock-down argument with Steve… so I can say with absolute first-hand knowledge that he could pull strings in you that you didn’t even know you had.

When he finally realized he was barking up the wrong tree, he, somehow, masterfully, nimbly, simply changed the entire cadence of the conversation, making it somehow feel like he wasn’t the biggest jerk in the world, but rather, that we arrived in a good spot and were better off having “discussed the issues.”

Later I came to understand this was just Steve’s way… he would push hard, many times unreasonably, just to see if there was anything else he could learn… and, secretly, even perversely, to see how you would respond.

To this day I haven’t really reconciled how I felt about the episode.  It was incredibly frustrating… but also incredibly thrilling.

Two things, though, became incredibly clear:  (1) you simply could not be anything but at the top of your game around him, because (2) Steve was probably the most difficult person in the world to work with.

No doubt, he did get incredibly great things out of people.

But, unfortunately, that always came at a great price.

When brute force failed, Steve could, reluctantly, switch gears.

Steve had pummeled us in contract negotiations at T/Maker… basically got 98% of everything he wanted… except for one, tiny little thing.  Go figure, that one, tiny little thing reared its ugly head.  Instead of graciously accepting the contractual language, he pulled the, “look, I know what the contract says, but in my heart, this is what I meant for that paragraph to say…”.

Heidi Roizen, my dear friend and partner at T/Maker, and I have laughed about that one for years… he really would — unabashedly — try absolutely every trick in the book to get what he wanted.

One of the best back-handed compliments I have ever received was from Heidi.  We were in the throes of a user interface debate — I think, seriously, arguing about the placement of a single pixel in a small icon — when she wheeled toward me and said, “geez, Royal, you and Steve are the only two guys I know that have infinite energy to argue about the most meaningless things.”

I know she didn’t mean that as a compliment — but I took it as one — and I suspect Steve would have taken it as such, too… his attention to detail was, of course, legendary.

Doesn’t mean he always got it right…

… I’m still upset with him for pushing a round mouse on the world for not one but two versions of the iMac (a mouse is a navigation device, so it’s imperative that you know north-south orientation without looking)…

… or actually thinking cursor keys didn’t have their place in a graphical interface…

… or, as a young chairman of a young computer company, actually calling the employees in the division that produced 99% of his revenues “bozos”…

… but, it did mean he never gave up trying to get it right.

People have always compared Steve to Bill Gates.  As a competitor, I have always said Steve was, by far, more dangerous.  Bill used logic and reason and always did the strategically smart business move — even if it was vicious and ruthless.  But Steve let emotion and ego and, well, craziness guide him… which made him unpredictable… which is far more dangerous.

Crazy like a fox, eh?

I always felt a bit sorry for Steve in those days… for all he had achieved — and even at that early stage, he had achieved a lot — it still felt like he was missing something… I didn’t really see him have any good friends.  Seemed he was very much a victim of his own circumstance.

Of late I’ve heard stories of him vacationing alone in Hawaii… which made me sad… but, more often than not, I’ve heard things that sounded, well, incredibly normal… and those things always put a smile on my face.  I think what was missing from the Steve I knew so many years ago was family… and I am happy he found that later in life.

When Steve was kicked out of Apple, I remember him saying, “I still have 4 or 5 great products in me.”  I always thought that was bravado talking, that he was already wealthy, already guaranteed a spot in the tech hall of fame, and that, ultimately, his grinding, my-way-or-the-highway approach would continue to be his undoing.

But Steve fooled everyone… he got better with age.  Probably his most inspiring lesson of all.

From what I know, Steve’s illness should have taken him years ago.

Only Steve could dictate to death itself.

Steve, not sure I can say this about anyone else… but the world will really be a different place without you.

The market seemed quite disappointed that Apple “only” released an upgraded iPhone 4… rather than a new, spify iPhone 5.

After all, Apple lovers have waited an eternity for the new model… err, I mean a whole 18 months.

I was watching the news yesterday morning… lots of shots in front of the Apple building where the announcement was being held… and on the front of the building some beautiful and simple Apple-styled icons about the event… one in particular caught my eye, a giant “4”… as part of a calendar icon showing the date, October 4th.

It looked weird for some reason.

Now it’s a “duh” moment for me.

I don’t think Apple could have signaled its naming intentions any stronger than scheduling the event on October 4th — as opposed to easily being able to have it on October 5th — and putting a giant “4” right in front of our faces.

Duh.

Sadly, George Vineyard would be 50 today. 

He’s gotta be somewhere with a big smile on his face… after all, he was Apple’s (AAPL) biggest fan when the stock was at about $25 (yikes!)… he declared CD’s and DVD’s a “dead media” way before any of the so-called experts… and eerily he somehow knew the 49ers were going to run into some rough years.

Was he wrong with any of his predictions?

I can hear him now:  “I’m not wrong… I just haven’t been proven right yet.”

I could have used his wisdom and strong shoulder over the last few years.  I still miss my good friend deeply.

[George Vineyard 1961-2005:  Farwell Dear Friend]