Apple’s Ultimate Sin: It’s Boring


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According to published reports Apple’s (AAPL) Board of Directors has grown frustrated at the company’s lack of visible innovation. While CEO Tim Cook’s job is not at stake, Fox Business’ Charlie Gasparino says the board is pressuring him to innovate and “do something fast.”

This calls to mind Mark Twain’s warning about never teaching a pig to sing. “It wastes your time and annoys the pig.”

From all appearances Tim Cook is not a creative man. Capable, yes, but one never gets the sense he’s going to be the man who reinvents the television or anything else.

The lack of inspiration may explain how Apple has managed to stage a rally without anyone paying much attention. Given up for dead at the end of June when it fell below $400 a share, the stock has rallied more than 10% in the last month and reclaimed the mythical title of “Highest Market Cap in America” from Exxon Mobil (XOM).

There are a few ostensible drivers of this title change: rumors of different colors on a new iPad mini, a court victory over Samsung (SSNLF), rumors of an iPhone 6, and a plastic iPhone — pretty much the same maddeningly vague noise that has defined the Tim Cook era.

Frankly, it’s hard to care at this point. Apple makes nice stuff, but other companies have caught up with it in terms of quality. Apple Television remains a pipe dream, Airplay has been trumped by Google’s (GOOG) Chromecast, and it’s impossible to find anyone waiting with baited breath for an Apple watch.

Related: Google Chromecast: $35 Cable Industry Killer?

The company hasn’t even bothered to hire a new retail chief, content instead to rest on its laurels as if the stores were little more than giant iPods.

The cudgel with which Apple beats back its competition is iTunes. In all fairness, the store is one hell of an effective club. Other companies may have caught up with Apple on hardware, but it’s going to take more than an incremental improvement over the iPhone to get users to put up with the hassle of moving their content.

Apple’s position is akin to that of cold pizza in the refrigerator on a rainy night. There’s better food available, but it’s a hassle to go out and get it. Cold pizza is pretty good, but no one’s going to wait in line for it.

Todd Schoenberger of LandColt Capital is a hardcore Apple bull, and even he concedes things have gotten a little bland in Cupertino. “We’re waiting for that all-important, life-changing product from Apple and unfortunately we’re just not getting it… What we really need is that kid to go that bar and drop off some secret plans, because that’s what we’re waiting for,” Schoenberger says, referring to the famous lost iPhone of 2010.

Schoenberger preaches patience. Innovations don’t happen overnight. Historically not even Apple has come out with revolutionary products every other year — it takes years. Apple’s apparent lassitude is frustrating but hardly an indictment of a company that’s printing cash even faster than it can buy back shares.

The bullish case for Apple is that it has a good deal of time before there’s any fundamental threat. What’s more, anyone who could possibly get shaken out of the stock has undoubtedly been shaken out by now. The stock could easily hit $500, based simply on the momentum of the current bounce.

For any other company, that would be an outstanding trade set up. Coming from Apple, it’s just another slice of boring.

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