It's been a long time since I've written publicly about Apple, but with the Worldwide Developers' Conference behind us, and the 7 for 1 stock split immediately in front of us, I thought now was as good a time as any.
Just as good a time, it seems, for investors as well to give this stock a very close look even as it dances around a 2-year high.
This week's WWDC is another foundational event for Apple, laying the groundwork for some key initiatives ahead. iOS8, Yosemite, the new healthcare dashboard, HomeKit, recent acquisitions (Beats was certainly big and interesting, but the battery life ramifications of LuxVue could be that much more interesting if Apple ever decides to move into wearables.) In the case of Beats, the deal will be accretive almost immediately and keeps the cool factor in tact since that younger crowd so coveted by Apple and others is rabidly fanatical about those headphones.
Personnel is also a big deal. Plenty of talent assisted with this week's keynote (gotta love Cook's ability and desire to let his deep bench shine), but Angela Ahrendts, the former Burberry CEO, as new Apple retail SVP is certainly the biggest story; and even more so if you look at her track record and see her as the likely Tim Cook heir apparent.
The WWDC may have been short on hardware -- as it almost always is -- but as we spin this story forward, the puzzle pieces Apple is putting in place are beginning to form a rather interesting, lucrative picture. The stock split that takes place this Friday (and will be reflected beginning with next Monday's trading) will mean Apple will be trading below $100 again, something we haven't seen since St. Patrick's Day, 2009 (which, I thought would have been so much longer ago and therefore would have been so dramatic. Instead, as I think about it, it's pretty incredible in the other direction: A little over five short years ago, Apple was at $99 a share! Not a bad return!) Yet even with that crazy run, on a valuation and forward P/E basis (14x next year's earnings), and despite an 18 percent pop since the split was announced a few weeks ago, Apple is still comparatively very cheap. With the split, it's share price will make it seem even more so -- and that will make it that much more attractive to institutions and individuals alike.
Candidly, it's hard to be as excited about a post Steve Jobs Apple. He catalyzed so much magic, so much inspiration, so much ingenuity, vision, angst, unpredictability, style, irreverence. Apple simply is not the same company without him; nor should it be. Jobs may not have done the Beats deal; he would not have released a smaller iPad; he probably would not release the widely expected, bigger-screen iPhone anticipated for later this year; he long ago vowed never to split the company's shares again; and he was loathe to return cash to shareholders.
None of that matters. New leadership in a new time in the company's history means new opportunities, different visions, different directions. Not bad. Not bad at all. Just different. And a stock -- and company -- that was supposed to implode in his absence has flourished. Legacy is wonderful when it's used as a foundation for the future. Such is the power and perseverance of Apple.
I learned (the excruciatingly hard way) that taking a position on Apple opens the floodgates for blogosphere bombardment. Four years ago, I left my role covering every breath of Apple while at CNBC, and I've relished a new sense of anonymity since. But given this week's news, the product pipeline that Eddy Cue says is the best he's seen in 25 years, given the stock split and valuation, this is a good time to accentuate the positive. And there's so much of it.
Naysayers were loud four years ago, and while there have been ups and downs along the way, great innovation and of course the tragic loss of Steve Jobs, just remember that the day I walked out of CNBC, Apple was trading at around $250 a share. The chart from then to now has not been for the faint of heart, certainly. And Apple shares from here forward are probably not for those with a fear of heights, either.
Funny, writing this tonight felt warmly, happily familiar.
Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly attributed a statement made by Eddy Cue to Jony Ives.