You have may seen some of the headlines after Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL ) release of the iPhone5:
"Has Apple Peaked?" asked Joe Nocera in The New York Times.
"Apple Shares Fall After iPhone 5 Sales Fail to Meet Analysts' Expectations," declared Yahoo! Finance.
"Apple's Lost," claimed my colleague Dan Newman.
"Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) Can Finally Kill Apple," fellow Fool Rick Munarriz chimed in.
Yes, yes, it's true. The iPhone5 failed to knock the earth from its axis. Nor can it walk on water as some had hoped. Really, just trust me on this one.
Expectations may have been overblown. After all, this is the fifth iPhone upgrade, so improvements are naturally going to be incremental, making the bloodlust in the media claiming that Apple has ceded its throne seem a bit overdone. Many have called Apple's peak in the past, and all have been wrong.
Let's take a closer look at the false idols from this round.
Most of the criticism has centered on Apple's decision to jettison Google Maps in favor of its own inferior application. The detractors insist this a harbinger of a compromised Apple, one that's focused on locking down market share and locking out competitors, rather than innovating and designing as it's developed a reputation for.
But it's far too early to say whether the mapping switch was a mistake, as sales will ultimately determine this, and Apple's engineers are working quickly to make improvements. Google could also simply develop an iOS 6 map to be available in the App Store.
Writing in The New York Times, Nocera takes this line of attack one step further, calling it a potential "canary in the coal mine," and suggesting the gadget-maker's best days are behind it. Nocera insists that big companies inevitably become sluggish, and focus on protecting their empire instead of continuing to innovate, allowing smaller, more nimble enterprises to displace them. Yet he forgets that just two years ago, Apple introduced the groundbreaking iPad, which continues to be unmatched in quality and still dominates the market. Perhaps Apple will never produce anything as transformative as the iPhone or iPad again, but television seems like a ripe space for the same kind of technological upgrade that has happened to phones and computing. It's not hard to imagine Apple TV becoming another blockbuster product.
Nocera's final folly is in his implication that Apple will be turn into another Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) . Microsoft, however, was never a big innovator -- Bill Gates was just a savvy businessman -- and even without any major new products Microsoft continues to grow earnings at a steady pace. The Windows-maker's stock cratered because of the tech bubble, but with a P/E of 16, Apple doesn't have that problem. In fact, the stock is cheaper than other megacaps such as Coca-Cola and Procter & Gamble, whose products seem to have penetrated every street corner around the world. Apple still has plenty of opportunities in China and the rest of the developing world, and a cheaper, scaled-down iPhone could help unlock this potential.
Analysts freaked when Apple announced it sold only 5 million of the new phones this weekend, sending shares down nearly 4% in two days, but that was better than the 4 million iPhone 4S units sold on its opening weekend last year. Some analysts, having expected sales between 8 million and 10 million, were disappointed, but supply constraints were the reason sales weren't higher, not demand. A drop in the average selling price for the iPhone is also a concern if providers stop subsidizing it, but as long as demand is strong, the competition among the telecoms for iPhone users will persist.
Aside from Apple's products themselves, the company has plenty of other factors working in its favor. The $116 billion on its balance sheet, as of its latest report, not only drops its P/E ratio effectively to 12, but also presents a plethora of buying opportunities if management so desires. You'll know the company is done innovating when it starts snatching up all-and-sundry businesses around it, the way Google and Microsoft have.
Apple also has built tremendous brand and market power. Even if the iPhone5 disappoints some, the company has engendered an incredible loyalty with those buyers who have purchased many of the products in its ecosystem, so it's hard to see adherents ditching the latest model for an Android-based phone. While analysts may have been disappointed with early sales results, it's hard to think of another tech company that could sell that much of anything in just three days. By comparison, new movies almost never sell that many tickets in opening weekend.
The company's market power was on display recently when whispers spread that the Cupertino kids were getting into Internet radio. The market responded by sending shares of industry leader Pandora off a cliff. Apple could have a similar effect in a number of industries if it chooses to enter them.
Though this quarter's earnings report will only count about a week of iPhone 5 sales, analysts seem to be overlooking the new addition. The experts cut back estimates sharply after Apple missed the bar last quarter and are now expecting just $8.84 of EPS in this one. Considering last quarter's disappointing earnings still came in at $9.32, the iPhone maker shouldn't have a problem topping estimates this time.
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