Best Stock for 2008: Apple

Ring in the new year with more stocks for 2008.

I'll make this simple. Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) is 2008's best stock because it wallops rival electronics retailers in generating sales per square foot:

Company

Retail Revenue (mil)

Square Feet, Retail (mil)

Sales Per Square Foot

Apple

$4,115

1.5

$2,743.33

Best Buy

$32,222

33.3

$967.63

Circuit City

$11,860

17.6

$675.01

Sources: SEC filings, The Motley Fool estimates.

Impressive, yes? I'll say.

I should point out that these numbers are anything but perfect. Apple's retail revenue includes its small but growing international operation. Not so for Best Buy (NYSE: BBY  ) and Circuit City (NYSE: CC  ) . Apple also operates on a different fiscal calendar than its electronics-retailing peers.

Still, look at that footprint. With just 1.5 million square feet, spread out across roughly 200 stores around the globe, Apple -- the 30-year-old Mac daddy -- is but a baby when it comes to retailing.

Not for long, though. That 4-T black turtleneck you bought little Stevie for Christmas is already ripping at the seams. Apple plans 40 new stores in 2008, many of which will be planted overseas. Mexico, too, if the rumors are true.

Apple: Netflix killer?
Apple can still make billions from retailing. But there's also big money waiting in other areas of its business -- video rentals, for example.

Last week, major media outlets reported that Apple had inked a deal with News Corp. to make video rentals available via iTunes. If true, it would put instant pressure on Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX  ) to do more with its fledging "Watch Now" free service.

But the news may be bigger than any single deal. Thanks to Hulu, Watch Now, the SlingBox, and TiVo, we've become accustomed to getting programming any time, anywhere, in whatever form we want. You can be sure that Apple CEO Steve Jobs is keenly aware of this, and that iTunes video rentals are on the way. If News Corp. doesn't provide the content, someone else will.

Apple: Palm killer?
Then there's the iPhone. The numbers are staggering. Roughly 1.4 million have already sold, which, by my math, will bring in at least $700 million in new revenue for Apple.

But that's a conservative estimate. I'm assuming just $399 per phone, plus $100 for Apple's referral deal with AT&T. We know that many iPhones sold for $600. We also have press reports stating that Apple reaps $18 a month from Ma Bell for each iPhone activated, or $432 over a two-year period.

Do the math with me: 1.4 million multiplied by $831 per iPhone is ... (key-punching sounds) ... $1.16 billion. Apple may have created a billion-dollar business ... in six freakin' months.

It makes me wonder: How can Palm (Nasdaq: PALM  ) be so slow when the market is moving so fast?

Apple: Windows killer?
Finally, let's talk Leopard. No, not the cat; the operating system. The new Mac OS is already a winner, having sold more than 2 million copies in its first weekend of release.

Reviews in my copy of Macworld don't offer breathless praise for the OS, but there's plenty to like, including a very useful new feature called "Time Machine." You select the hard drive you'd like to back up, and the destination for your archived data, and Leopard takes care of the rest.

Elegant system software engineering like this is commonplace for Apple. Before there were retail stores, the iEmpire and its devotees -- yours truly included -- thought superior design would ultimately draw customers away from Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) and Windows. Never happened.

But here's the thing: It still could. Retail stores are as much a showroom for the Mac OS, the iPod, and the iPhone as they are a sales depot. Researcher IDC says that Apple's share of the domestic PC market is climbing as a result.

What's more, with chips from Intel (Nasdaq: INTC  ) , Macs now handle PC programs pretty well. For example, a software application called Crossover allows you to run PC software in the Mac OS without a copy of Windows present. Talk about a rebellion in the making.

Fly the pirate flag
Notice the pattern here, Fool. Apple is disrupting every business it enters, and in most cases, doing so successfully. Think about how extraordinary that is. All Microsoft had to do was disrupt the PC business once to unleash billions in market value.

How much more will Apple unleash when it disrupts two? Three? Four? You get the picture. Apple, like so many rebel stocks before it, is a misunderstood multibagger in the making. $200 a share is just the beginning.

But that's my take. If you agree, head over to CAPS to rate Apple "outperform." If not, rate it "underperform." Our editors will tally your votes and, next week, reveal your choice for the best stock of the New Year.


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