HP Spits Apple Out

Gasp! Is it possible? Bad news for Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) ? Say it ain't so! Sell!

That's my take on last Friday's reaction to Hewlett-Packard's (NYSE: HPQ  ) decision to no longer resell the iPod. Investors sent Apple's shares teetering lower by more than 2% for the day.

The argument, I suppose, was that HP hadn't seen enough demand for the iconic music player, which therefore points toward slowing sales in the months ahead. But that's not what HP said. Instead, a spokesperson told The Wall Street Journal that the iPod "doesn't fit with its digital entertainment strategy."

Yeah, OK. I'd have a hard time believing that as is. Fortunately, unnamed sources in the Journal's account put it in perspective: HP can neither resell another organization's player nor build one of its own until a year from now. Besides, a digital entertainment strategy without portable music? Suuuuure. Order me up some chips without salsa while you're at it, OK?

In this Fool's opinion, it's more likely that HP wasn't getting a whole lot of bang for its iPod buck. Statistics bear this out. HP accounted for approximately 5% of all iPods sold in Apple's most recently completed quarter. By my count, that's roughly 310,000 units and $65 million in sales (for the quarter), which HP had to share with Apple. You'd have to multiply each of those numbers by at least 10 times to make the iPod's impact look like anything more than a rounding error. (HP racked up more than $80 billion in sales over the trailing 12 months.)

The bottom line is that HP appears to have finally realized that Apple is the iPod and the iPod is Apple. The pod people fueling massive sales and earnings growth for the Mac maker are hanging out at Apple stores, not CompUSA. Sure, HP's contribution helped some. But with the way Apple has been going, those incremental sales will be a distant memory come December. In that respect, this breakup is good for Apple. Think about it. If you want an iPod -- and it seems millions more do -- there will soon be only one place for you to go. Do you really think Apple CEO Steve Jobs is unhappy about that?

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Fool contributor Tim Beyers is intent on being the last one on the planet to own an iPod. Tim didn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story at the time of publication. You can find out what's in his portfolio by checking Tim's Fool profile, which is here. The Motley Fool has an ironclad disclosure policy.


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