Since Steve Jobs passed away two years ago Saturday, Apple has experienced no shortage of scrutiny.
Investors, the media and the public alike have targeted the company, accusing it of failing to innovate. Critics claim the company has lost its edge, merely updating existing products and not creating new product categories. CEO Tim Cook has also been criticized as lacking vision for Apple and blamed for the company’s fallen stock price.
Just because Apple hasn’t launched a new product category since Jobs’ death doesn’t mean its failing at innovation, said Trip Chowdhry, managing director at Global Equities Research.
“The reason Apple is Apple is because they do things that cannot be done. … We expect the best from Apple,” said Chowdhry, who has a price target of $725 on the stock with an overweight rating.
Apple has not lost its grip on innovation, but it has slowed down since Jobs death. If Jobs were still running the company, it’s likely that Apple would have two new product categories by now, Chowdhry said.
“Innovation drives the value of the company, and I think Apple has to prove itself. It’s not enough that they can come up with one product after 10 years or five years, but they need one every year if they want to do well,” he said. “They cannot be complacent, if they become complacent they will become the next Microsoft.”
Even though Apple’s innovation cycle has slowed, the company’s latest products have surpassed expectations, Chowdhry said. The technical innovation in the iPhone 5S demonstrates that the company’s innovation talent still beats the competition by a long shot, he added.
“Apple regained some of its innovation strength with the iPhone 5S and its 64-bit chip. They are probably up to something big,” he said. “We may tend be very critical, but the way I’m seeing Apple now, they probably have their insights into the future intact.”
Chowdhry predicts that Apple will have a big product year in 2014 and will roll out its long-rumored iTV.
Cook has often been criticized by media and investors for not having the design prowess and leadership capabilities that his predecessor possessed. During the short period that he has been leading the company, some critics have even called for him to be ousted.
But Cook, who is a mastermind of operations, has a far better grasp on what Apple needs in order to succeed in the long-term than critics say, said Timothy Lesko, a principal at Granite Investment Advisors.
“Tim Cook recognizes he is not the product visionary Steve Jobs was,” Lesko said. “And with the promotion of Jony Ive to lead both hardware and software and how they interact, Cook is basically letting Jony Ive be the face of design at Apple.”
In some ways, by letting Ive become the lead of design, Cook has mitigated the street’s fear that there is no innovation and no vision, Lesko said.
Ive and Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering, have essentially become the “cool factor” for Apple, while Cook does what he is great at, which is global operations, Lesko said.
Ive worked closely with Federighi, in designing the latest version of Apple’s operating system, iOS 7, which was the biggest overhaul of the OS ever.
The redesign of the software marked the end of an era of sorts. Jobs was always a fan of designing software that mirrored real life. But the new OS features a flat interface that is void of any life-imitating graphics.
Under Cook, Apple has also been more open in its relationship with Wall Street.
During Jobs’ tenure as CEO, the company had a notorious reputation for giving very low guidance and then beating expectations by a mile. This caused a lot of confusion on the street, Lesko said.
“Some of Apple’s own media manipulation held the stock back,” Lesko said. “A more consistent earning stream may generate a better multiple.”
The company has also become increasingly more shareholder friendly since Cook took the reins.
Likely because Jobs had witnessed Apple on its deathbed more than once, he was extraordinarily wary of debt, Lesko said. But Cook has been more willing to take on debt to return capital to shareholders.
So far, the company has said it will return $100 billion to shareholders through share buybacks and dividends by the end of 2015. And there’s speculation they may continue to increase the stock buyback.
“Steve Jobs’ Apple would never ever do a share buyback,” Chowdhry said. But if you can do more things, like a buyback, and you can carry on Steve Jobs’ Apple while also taking on the positive of Tim Cook, it could be good for the company.”
Courtesy of USA Today