Wrath of the Apple Cult

"You are very sad. And fat LOL."-- Quote from reader email pertaining to this Apple article.

You don't need an empty gaze and a shuffling gait to be a stock cultist. There are quite a few companies whose followers possess a cult-like quality -- especially Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) . And what better time to talk about that cultish devotion than when the company's shares are trading near new 52-week highs?

I should start by admitting that I'm a lifelong Apple devotee. When I was in college in the late '80s, I churned out papers and short fiction on an Apple IIe word processor. Over the years, I moved on to a Mac Performa, then to one of the first-generation iMacs, until I finally bought my iBook this past spring. I've never had a Windows machine on my desk at home.

Am I part of the iPod nation? Absolutely. I've got both an iPod shuffle and a 20 GB iPod, and I have been admiring the new video iPod from afar. (My iPods have plenty of accoutrements as well, some of which have gotten me a lot of flak.)

Regular Foolish readers know that Apple is one of my favorite companies to write about. Apple has pulled off some impressive innovations over the years, the iPod being no exception, and it deserves attention for its products' design and function. You could also argue that much of its cult following comes from its role as the quintessential underdog to Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) , back when ubiquitous home computing was in its infancy and, well, somebody wound up eating somebody else's lunch. I believe we all already know that story.

However, my longtime Apple fandom might actually make me a little tougher on the company at times. No one should be blinded by their admiration -- dare I say love? -- for a company or product when it comes to investing their hard-earned dollars. And investors should carefully consider facts, not to mention opposing points of view, when they're ruminating on stocks.

Here at the Fool, the biggest sign that a company has a cult following is the deluge of nasty emails we get when any of us writes anything, and I mean anything, that might question that company's strategy or its current status as a reasonably priced investment. It's not hard to imagine that someone who resorts to personal insults in "defense" of a stock hasn't done much math when it comes to their investment. I know our writers love a reasonable disagreement to their opinions, but that really shouldn't include suggestions that a writer is, for example, mean, an idiot, or fat. (I still don't really understand what weight has to do with an opinion on Apple.)

There are plenty of logical reasons to wonder whether a stock that trades at a P/E of 50 has become too expensive, at what point the iPod craze might level off, whether the so-called "halo effect" really will accelerate as theorized, or at what point a competitor's digital music player could take off and really give the iPod brand a run for its money. These are all questions and risks that investors should carefully consider -- without simply assuming that the person who voiced the concerns "hates" Apple.

Here at the Fool, we're all about different points of view, even disagreement. That's why we stage many duels on stocks; they're exercises in not getting personal. It's also why the Fool community, with discussion boards on many stocks, is such a boon. It's a safe haven for free sharing of thought and information, even in the form of arguments. If you find yourself getting personal . well, take a moment and think differently. You may be acting more like a cultist than an investor.

"Why do you try to build dislike, if not hate, for Apple's success?? That negative narrative suggests YOU are a mean person. Get a new job."-- Another reader email, reacting to this Take.

Participate in a reasoned discussion about Apple's current price and prospects on our Apple discussion board.

Despite her lifelong loyalty to its products, Alyce Lomax does not own shares of Apple (or Microsoft).


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