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Apple: After Jobs, Is It Still a Buy?

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The panic has begun. Steve Jobs is gone from Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) , and shares are collapsing. Or, wait a minute. As of this writing, shares are down 1.2%, which is actually less than the 1.5% fall the Nasdaq has seen.

The greatest CEO of our generation steps down, and Apple just keeps on rolling. Mere years ago, that would have been an unfathomable thought.

But is that the right reaction? I asked a panel of Foolish experts to pull out their crystal balls and look into Apple's future.

Fool contributor and Rule Breakers analyst Rick Munarriz
Throw me into the "I can't believe Apple is trading for less than 12 times next year's earnings" camp, but I'm also a realist. It will not be business as usual for the class of Cupertino without Steve Jobs around.

Who will rally the troops at the next Apple powwow when a pressed black turtleneck occupies a display case at the Smithsonian?

I believe in Cook as an operational guru, and perhaps even a visionary, but Apple will be several degrees less intense in the charisma department. You can't simply flip the autopilot switch and let Apple coast through the next few years. Apple will have to sell mainstream audiences on its future. That's where Jobs will be sorely missed.

Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) Android is kicking the iPhone's tail, padding its market-share lead. Now that handset makers, carriers, and developers have a "free" platform that's actually resonating with smartphone buyers, Apple will have to work harder. Google is willing to spend $12.5 billion on Motorola Mobility (NYSE: MMI  ) to protect this "free" operating system, so it's not going to back down.

Sure, the iPad is the only tablet that's selling, but I can't imagine anyone other than Jobs brainwashing us into thinking we actually needed one.

Apple will be a tech bellwether for a long time, but anyone who doesn't think Apple's future just got a bit more challenging will have to point out who Cook is to me in a new boardroom photo.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund
So Apple's genius leader steps back to a strategic role, permanently this time. The market is taking it in with a giant yawn, because this move has been obvious for months. When I called Apple out as one of the worst stocks to own in 2010, a Jobs-less executive suite was the cornerstone of my risk-related argument. This event still isn't the calamity I was looking for in one of the worst calls of 2010.

The true measure of Apple's new leadership will come when even the chairman's role becomes too much for Steve to bear. Without the visionary mastermind to lead the way, Cook and his advisors will be left to their own devices. Can they continue to pump out "magical" gadgetry year after year, as Jobs has done?

We'll have to wait and see. If anything, removing Jobs from the equation makes investors expect that much less perfection out of Apple. Ironically, Steve's Dear John letter just reduced the risk inherent in owning Apple shares.

That said, Apple is running out of new gadget sizes for the iPad/iPhone/iPod touch family, and it may need to actually come up with some innovation soon in order to keep its customers loyal. Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) was once the world's largest company by market cap, but nothing lasts forever. Apple needs to stay fresh in order to stay relevant, profitable, and growing, and I don't know for sure that Cook has that quality in him.

Fool contributor and Rule Breakers analyst Tim Beyers
It's the end for Apple! Not only has the iEmpire lost its visionary, it's lost its soul! Sound the alarm! So say the bears today. Trouble is, they're wrong. Visionaries aplenty remain employed by the Mac maker. But don't take my word for it. See for yourself.

"Right now, from our point of view [netbooks] are principally based on hardware that's much less powerful than we think customers want. Software technology that is not good, cramped keyboards, small displays ... And so, we don't think that people are going to be pleased with those types of products."

Sounds like Jobs, right? Wrong. That's Tim Cook, Apple's new CEO and the company's operational leader since Jobs first took medical leave in January 2009. At the time, he was speaking about netbook offerings from Dell (Nasdaq: DELL  ) , Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ  ) , and Asian suppliers.

Within a year, he and the team at Apple would introduce the iPad. The netbook market would begin to fall apart within months, and today is teetering on the brink of irrelevance despite Google's efforts with the Chromebook.

Don't get me wrong. Jobs is important to Apple and will be missed, but if you think the Apple of the last 18 months -- a period of unprecedented prosperity for the company -- has seen Jobs at anywhere near his normal levels of engagement, you're deluding yourself. Apple will be fine. Here's hoping that's also true for Steve.

Technology Editor for Eric Bleeker
With Steve Jobs leaving, it's only natural that investors look back to how other companies have fared after losing iconic leaders. However, I'm going to throw a name out that I haven't seen in previous comparisons: Lou Gerstner.

The company Lou Gerstner led, IBM (NYSE: IBM  ) , couldn't be more different from Apple, aside from residing in the technology space. IBM is perceived as big and stodgy, and it has no sex appeal. However, like Jobs, Gerstner came into a floundering technology giant, and saw a new vision and a new market of untapped opportunities. He would move IBM away from hardware into the software- and services-heavy giant it is today. After Gerstner left, IBM was able to continue the momentum, because Gerstner's vision and forward thinking put it well ahead of the curve. You can see how far behind competitors are with HP's flailing attempts to unload its PC business and refocus on areas IBM conquered long ago.

Is Jobs' story so different? He took over Apple at a time when the company lost its way. He had a vision of a mobile future where users craved an experience that seamlessly flowed across different computing devices. With the strength of iOS largely in place, I believe that like IBM before it, Apple will continue to excel into the future, because the vision of its leader was so far in advance of the competition.

That's not to say Apple won't be without its challenges in the coming years. However, the greatest challenges -- the legwork on capturing the next great opportunity, like growing sales in emerging markets or expanding into the living room -- has been done. iOS has proven its ability to scale into these markets. It's for these reasons that I've long insisted that the amount of "innovation" at Apple is overestimated by media that stays anchored on what Apple was three years ago. Today, execution on expanding iOS is the key driver. I think Cook, Jon Ive, Phil Schiller, and the rest of the management team will be able to deliver on that.

To keep tabs on how the post-Steve-Jobs Apple moves into the future, make sure to add the company to our free My Watchlist feature. It'll deliver up-to-date news and analysis as the company navigates these critical times.

  • Add Apple to My Watchlist.

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Eric Bleeker owns shares of no companies listed above. Anders Bylund owns shares of Google. Tim Beyers owns shares of Apple, Google, and IBM. Rick Munarriz owns shares of no companies listed above. The Motley Fool owns shares of Microsoft, Google, Apple, and International Business Machines. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Dell, Microsoft, Google, and Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a bull call spread position in Microsoft and Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Read/Post Comments (30) | Recommend This Article (56)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On August 25, 2011, at 3:22 PM, mikecart1 wrote:

    Apple is done like GE was done in 2000 when Jack left. Since then the market cap of GE has dropped over $400 billion - that is billion NOT million. Apple never reached GE status but it won't matter. In about 5 years, AAPL's market cap will be about $200 billion and will slowly fade off the market.

  • Report this Comment On August 25, 2011, at 4:19 PM, marketmaker2100 wrote:

    @ mikecart1: The reality is that it is most certainly still a buy. The valuations, other key metrics, the risk characteristics - everything points to Apple being a VERY strong buy (!

    I could totally understand if your argument is framed from a longer long-term perspective, but I don't get it. Even if you look out 3 to 5 years.

  • Report this Comment On August 25, 2011, at 4:19 PM, LWILLS wrote:

    I for one agree with Eric and Tim. If you don't think that Steve Jobs has been preparing the company for this transition you are being foolish - and not in a good way. I don't have time to list all my reasons but consider this: it took a visionary to create what Apple has become. It will take great management to continue the trajectory. I believe Apple has the skills and talent to do this. I still believe we are just seeing the tip of the iceberg of what Apple will be.

    And Steve, if you just happen to see this, please know you have my continued prayers for many more happy years in this life.

  • Report this Comment On August 25, 2011, at 5:04 PM, SkippyJohnJones wrote:

    Hey Mike, are you calling for GE to slowly fade off the market? GE's market cap fell in two large moves. First was the 2000-2001 bubble burst that effected everyone and post 9/11 correction/recession. The second was the 2008 financial meltdown. The company has weathered these storms pretty well, thanks in large part to the codification of Welch's management style. They have managed to maintain phenomenal market share and profits in many industries that, from a distance, appear to be candidates for commoditization. The company has done remarkably considering what the global economy has been through.

    Now on to your comparison with Apple:

    <b>GE on 12/31/00</b>

    Market Cap $475B

    Net Income $12.7B

    Growth 19%

    PE (TTM) 37.4

    PEG 1.96

    Cash $8.2B

    <b>AAPL on 8/25/11</b>

    Market Cap $350B

    Net Income $23.61B

    Growth 90%

    PE (TTM) 14.9

    PEG 0.66

    Cash $76B

    Basically the only number that AAPL of today shares with GE of Y2K is market cap. It is much larger, growing much faster, and priced much lower. It also has built its entire model on proprietary products. The stock didn't fall today because the fundamentals wouldn't allow it.

    With all due respect to GE (both during and post Jack Welch), Apple is a far better value today than GE. GE during its heydey attributed much of its growth to acquisition. The company routinely purchased more than 100 companies a year. Apple is in a radically different position, with virtually all growth coming organically. Apple would likely continue to rapidly grow for 1-2 years even if Tim Cook were a chimpanzee, but fortunately for the company he is a brilliant manager, operator and negotiator.

  • Report this Comment On August 25, 2011, at 5:21 PM, XMFSocialME wrote:

    1. Apple is not GE (ref. comment No. 1).

    2. Apple has an incredibly talented executive team including Jony Ive -- Senior VP of Industrial Design at AAPL and the conceptual mind behind Apple's innovative design.

    3. Apple is a great company that will continue to do great things for years to come.

  • Report this Comment On August 25, 2011, at 5:25 PM, jl4387 wrote:

    Apple can coast for 3 maybe 4 years.... unfortunately, without Jobs the company is toast.

  • Report this Comment On August 25, 2011, at 5:28 PM, PeakOilBill wrote:

    There is NO replacement for Steve Jobs. Creative geniuses are hard to find. Apple stock will slowly start to decline after Jobs dies. (I'm assuming his doctors just told him that there isn't much more they can do. I hope I am wrong, and he lives another 30 years.) Over time, Apple will become just another electronic gadget company. If you have made a huge profit on the stock, I would get out before the market can crash. The banking crisis in Europe seems to be getting worse, fast. If that happens and Jobs dies, you will never make what you could have, if you sell before any possible crash. Don't get too greedy if you made a lot on Jobs' genius.

  • Report this Comment On August 25, 2011, at 5:37 PM, CMFSoloFool wrote:

    I know the shock of Steve's departure as CEO is still reverberating throughout the world. However, HE'S NOT DEAD YET!!!

    Stepping away from the CEO role that he has been absent from for the past 8 months is not as big a deal to the company as some are making it out to be. First of all, Cook seems to have kept the ship pretty steady in the multiple absences that temporarily put Cook into the CEO office. Furthermore, Steve is still Chairman, so he will still have some input and some opportunity to continue to contribute and mentor Cook.

    Now, Apple has a lot of momentum, and they are starting to kick some butt with their patents, holding off HTC and Samsung. With iPhone 5 on the launch pad, Sprint picking up the iPhone, China Mobile bringing iPhone to China, and then iPad3 in the works.... I think they'll see the north side of $400 by Christmas, and likely $600 by Christmas 2012.

    Over the next 12-24 months, Apple's strategic and tactical moves will be analyzed under a microscope and I'm sure the market will have plenty to say, both good and bad, as earnings continue to impress. Maybe, just maybe, Mr. Market will finally realize just how much of a discount it has been putting on Apple, and may even start to improve its valuation when they realize Apple is going to make it through pretty well.

  • Report this Comment On August 25, 2011, at 5:40 PM, hiddenflem wrote:

    Let's not forget that Steve once left the company and saw it fall apart in his absence. He's already been there done that. To think that he would let that happen again is ignorant--he's in a much stronger position now to ensure that it continues under the right leadership+trajectory.

  • Report this Comment On August 25, 2011, at 6:27 PM, Sharpfool213 wrote:

    Tim Cook has some pretty big shoes to fill as CEO of Apple. Steve Jobs is a creative genius, the driving force behind Apple’s culture of innovation. He took Apple from a company that should “quit and give the money back to investors” (what a genius you are, Mr. Dell) to become one of the most dominant global brands in the world with the Mac, iPod, iPhone, and iPad.

    I’m a huge Apple fan, in fact I’m typing this on a Macbook Pro, but there are concerns. With Cook at the helm, will Apple’s culture of innovation die out? He doesn’t have the charisma of a Steve Jobs, and may not be able to envision or execute the next big thing, whatever it is.

    Seeking Alpha says it best, “Apple will need to continue to innovate, grow and create new products and experiences to maintain its leadership and stay one step ahead of its competition.” But can they do that without their leader?

    I'm not quite sure if Apple is a buy right now. Sure, they're growing earnings at 80% and trading at 12x forward estimates, but they just lost their greatest asset, their founder, Steve Jobs.

    And just to point this out, although Android rules in terms of worldwide market share, iOS is still the leader in North American market share according to .

  • Report this Comment On August 25, 2011, at 7:11 PM, georgek7 wrote:

    I think it's a buy. Cramer called it the "Tim Cook Discount."

  • Report this Comment On August 25, 2011, at 9:08 PM, indiobravo wrote:

    I don't believe that Jobs was the only creative and smart person inside Apple. There will remain many people capable of create great things. But the issue is way beyond Steve Jobs.

    Apple is now no more than branding. The iPhone and iPad will eventually have the same fate than Beta videocassettes and HD DVD. We have seen this before. Close source can't beat open source. They can create new amazing things in the future, but before a year, we will see competitors offering similar devices noticeably improved.

    In a five year timeframe, Apple will be as relevant as Kodak in the photography industry. As a brand, the name Apple will be remembered like America Online.

  • Report this Comment On August 25, 2011, at 9:21 PM, jm7700229 wrote:

    Steve Jobs may be a "visionary," I don't know. I do know that he is a despicable human being who manages by terror, not leadership. I sincerely doubt that Apple's undoubted successes have been purely due to Steve Jobs. I think he has paid some really smart people to do a really good job, and I don't see any reason why they should stop doing so with his departure (no one actually noticed his absence the last two times).

    Jobs is the reason I've never owned anything Apple makes (mostly in China), and the reason I don't invest in his company. Once he is really and truly gone, I may reconsider my positions.

  • Report this Comment On August 25, 2011, at 9:24 PM, macgregor45 wrote:

    I seem to recall that on day 1 of the iPad era, most pundits called the thing a klunker. iTunes got the same treatment, as I recall. Recently, HP's Touchpad was the death knell for Apple, ...very, very recently. Netbooks were going to kill Apple. The MacBook Air was a non-starter.

    Free internet punditry is valuable only to the extent that it illuminates the poor record of the pundits, and really, we'd all be poor if we faithfully followed any of their advice.

    The history of business in the world is that sometimes, something revolutionary happens. There's serendipity, greed, vision, accident, timing, error, judgment, stupidity, and luck involved. Sometimes, everything converges. Other times, not.

    Personally, I think Jobs is a rock star. He plays Apple like a professional conductor, but other folks can learn the instrument, too, modifying it to their whims. It will be fine. It's now an organism, with some survival rules built in and functioning well. I'll stay long, thanks.

  • Report this Comment On August 25, 2011, at 9:29 PM, macgregor45 wrote:

    jm7700229... and what makes YOU non-despicable? Where's your ouput? Who is investing in you? What jobs have you created in the USA? What markets have you created? What visions, other than self-delusion, have you realized?

    Who, really, gives a happy crap what your 'reconsidered' investment decisions are? I can smell the sense of impotence boiling off someone's keyboard... Despicable, indeed. Get a mirror, little man.

  • Report this Comment On August 25, 2011, at 9:36 PM, jm7700229 wrote:

    @macgregor45: ...and Mussolini got the trains running on time. Doesn't make him a hero in my eyes. I guess it does in yours.

  • Report this Comment On August 25, 2011, at 9:48 PM, alan0101 wrote:

    IMHO the blog is off target, as are most of the comments.I don't know if I'm reading People magazine or what. Certainly nothing that has to do with business or investing. Apple is far more than one person. As GE was more than Jack, in my mind quite overrated, leveraged by GE capital, so is Apple much more than Jobs.Business is not like some reality show, all about charisma..lets get back to fundamentals, to what drives the Apple DNA and you will see you have a very solid investment as far as the mind can see (5 yrs).

  • Report this Comment On August 25, 2011, at 11:58 PM, HarryCaraysGhost wrote:

    Am I the only one who wishes they had set a poo slinging Chimp as CEO so I could buy shares below a hondo?

  • Report this Comment On August 26, 2011, at 12:39 AM, Clint35 wrote:

    I wanna forget about Apple as a company for a minute and Just wish Steve Jobs and his family the best.

  • Report this Comment On August 26, 2011, at 12:41 AM, newbie21 wrote:

    I am a young investor and I love apple products and even though Steve is no longer going to be playing an active role in the company...I am totally ok with well as many other young folks. We focus on the products more than who is running the company. We do understand and appreciate what Steve has done and we have moved past that. We are more focused on the newest and latest tech gadgets to fit our lifestyles.

  • Report this Comment On August 26, 2011, at 1:35 AM, whereaminow wrote:

    On August 25, 2011, at 9:36 PM, jm7700229 wrote:

    @macgregor45: ...and Mussolini got the trains running on time. Doesn't make him a hero in my eyes. I guess it does in yours.


    Mussolini got the trains to run at the point of a gun. Steve created employment, value, and served his fellow man through VOLUNTARY action.

    That does indeed make him a hero in my book. He did more for Americans than the last 5,000 Congressmen combined.

    For people that are not completely insane, here is a nice article on Steve Jobs' insights:

    He'll be missed.

    David in Qatar

  • Report this Comment On August 26, 2011, at 1:50 AM, WikiCPA wrote:

    newbie21, i like you am a young new investor. I have a steady source of income but just because something is hot, i don't plan to focus my retirement around that product. Who knows what will happen to Apple, I see this as such a bad time for Steve Jobs to leave. With Apple having so much free cash, they can do so many things, one of which i fear is making bad investments like the G4 Cube or Mac Mini. One small move and Apple could lose their foothold to Google and Androids, then bam, roasted, Apple is back to where they were 15 years ago.

  • Report this Comment On August 26, 2011, at 10:51 AM, helensimon wrote:

    My best continued success is to Apple. And I wish for good luck to Steve Jobs. I hope he is happy with his unsurpassed contribution.

    Steve, there is no match.


  • Report this Comment On August 26, 2011, at 12:49 PM, CMF_muji wrote:

    Dear Fool editors,

    Anders Bylund thoughts on Apple -- no thank you!

    Why allow the Fool with the absolutely worst record on Apple the past few years to contribute to this piece? He is batting like 0 for 5 with Apple and its competition.

    At least Rule Breaker analysts are of the proper mindset in analyzing Apple. Why not ask Stock Advisor staff for their opinions, or perhaps David Gardner, who actually recommended the stock (to great success)?

  • Report this Comment On August 26, 2011, at 1:12 PM, aaanglemyer wrote:

    Apple is still a great buy opportunity. In the past people have speculated that Apple had reached its peak, but time and time again they continue to bring innovation to the market place. Apple's large amount of cash and ludicrously high historical ROICs (191% in 2010) give it the freedom to internally fund the creation of new innovative products for many years into the future.

    Apple currently has a Price-to-EBV of 1.6 which implies that the market expects Apple's cash flows to increase by 60%. This may seem like a high hurdle, especially given the recent news about Jobs, but given that Apple's Free Cash Flow has increased by over 90% in each of the last 2 years along with its ability to internally fund new ventures, it seems like a safe bet that Apple will not only meet but exceed these expectations.

    For more information on determining the market's expectations check out the following link:

    Disclaimer: I am employed by a research firm that is affiliated with a hedge fund that has a long position in AAPL.

  • Report this Comment On August 26, 2011, at 5:22 PM, sidmehta wrote:

    What everyone is missing: Its not enough to be a visionary. Steve was demanding, insistent and uncompromising. He ran the show, every detail, right down to packaging. So unless there's a visionary who is charismatic but tough-as-an-a**hole all the perfection will get diluted in newer products. And in large companies, you can't behave like a tough a**hole unless you own the company (or at least founded it so its "yours").

  • Report this Comment On August 26, 2011, at 9:26 PM, AceOfSaves wrote:

    @sidmehta - "And in large companies, you can't behave like a tough a**hole unless you own the company (or at least founded it so its "yours")."

    Just because you founded a company and think it's "yours", it doesn't mean you're untouchable. Steve Jobs, at one point, did get the boot from Apple after all.

    I'm just glad he came back to Apple, armed with lessons from that experience, and lead the company to its present state.

    Long on Apple...and on Steve Jobs.

  • Report this Comment On August 27, 2011, at 11:16 AM, baldheadeddork wrote:

    @Ace - when Jobs returned to Apple it was with a contract that practically eliminated any chance he'd be thrown out again.

    Someone mentioned GE post-Jack Welch at the top of the comments. As I posted on another Apple story, companies with a visionary leader typically do not do well after that leader steps down.

    It's not just GE. Chrysler went into a tailspin after Lee Iacocca retired. Microsoft shares have dropped by half since Bill Gates stepped down. Disney has been through this twice, after the death of Walt in the 60's and in the six years since Michael Eisner was forced out in 2005. McDonald's stumbled and floundered for more than a decade after Ray Croc died in 1981. Citigroup struggled following Sandy Weill's departure even before their derivatives time bomb exploded three years ago. Southwest Airlines is a larger and stronger airline today than when Herb Kelleher left in 2001, and it's by far the best-run company in its industry. But it's share price is down almost 60%. Home Depot is down about 50% from when it's founding team departed in 2000.

    I asked this question in that other story, and I'll ask it again here: Can anyone name one large company that had strong share price growth after the departure of a superstar CEO? I'm not asking to be snarky, I really can't find one. Even if its a clean transition, and even if the succeeding CEO continues to grow the company and dominate his industry (see Microsoft and Southwest), shareholders are likely to get clobbered.

  • Report this Comment On August 29, 2011, at 2:58 PM, LWILLS wrote:


    I have to say you do raise a very valid point and one that I have no answer for. I'll give it some thought and see what I come up with. Maybe I have let emotions cloud my judgement, I have been an Apple junkie since the 80s (well minus a few years when they practically disappeared).

  • Report this Comment On October 05, 2011, at 11:02 AM, GTBuzz wrote:

    Since prior to 1984, the introduction of the Mac, I have owned Apple and their products. Today I have a MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, iPhone4, & iPad2. Soon I will have additional Macs and / or other hardware and software. Yesterday Apple pre-sold 20 Billion iPhone4s' to Sprint and the stock went down. I suppose 20Bn is not much today or is it ?

    I encourage you to look at the software and how well it works on the hardware - there is nothing like it. Yes, Android is and will be a player. There will be other players, but Apple is and will remain strong.

    Apple can build anything they want to build and the labs have the future already in them. The ability of the hardware vendors to deliver in quantity at a price YOU can afford is the only constraint.

    Apple has many loyal and talented people who will continue to do well under the present leadership. As for comparing it to GE, give me a break. GE is about as far as you can get from Apple.

    Microsoft is a good company, with good people who do great things, but it has its share of problems. I use their Office software on my Macs. Microsoft is not going anywhere because Bill Gates is gone.

    I have not yet lost money on Apple, but I cannot say the same about Microsoft. Apple is still in their infancy of great things to come. Buy the Stock and the products.

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