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What's Apple's Next iPhone?

By Chris Hill - Oct 17, 2019 at 7:10PM

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Apple expert Leander Kahney offers up some theories; also, we offer some updates on the market this week.

In this episode of Motley Fool Money, host Chris Hill and Motley Fool analysts Jason Moser, Ron Gross, and Aaron Bush hit on some of the market's biggest news. A slew of businesses found themselves in the midst of free-speech concerns around Hong Kong. Bed Bath & Beyond ( BBBY 1.57% ) is finally free from no-CEO limbo, but can Mark Tritton free it from no-growth limbo, too? We also have updates from Domino's ( DPZ -0.65% ), Match Group ( MTCH ), Roku ( ROKU 12.92% ), Hooters, Helen of Troy ( HELE 0.11% ), and some stocks the analysts have on their radar.

Stay tuned for an interview with Leander Kahney, best-selling author of Tim Cook: The Genius Who Took Apple to the Next Level; it's about Tim Cook's leadership style, his history with Apple ( AAPL 1.83% ), and Apple's future as one of the biggest companies in the world.

To catch full episodes of all The Motley Fool's free podcasts, check out our podcast center. To get started investing, check out our quick-start guide to investing in stocks. A full transcript follows the video.

This video was recorded on Oct. 11, 2019.

Chris Hill: The NBA is playing preseason games in China. And last week, Daryl Morey, the general manager of the Houston Rockets, tweeted support of anti-government protesters in Hong Kong. Suffice to say, this did not go over well with the Chinese government and state-run media. The ripple effects of that one tweet are being felt not just in the business of professional basketball, but in the business world in general. Aaron Bush, I'll start with you. As the NBA and its players and executives wrestle with the extent to which they exercise free speech in and about China, it seems like over the past week, a lot of investors are discovering that the businesses they own shares of are engaged in various levels of self-censorship at the cost of doing business in China.

Aaron Bush: Right. This is a very big topic. It's interesting when you think about it: The issue has been framed by the masses as something that's binary -- companies are either choosing to support democratic values, or money.

While there is some truth to that, these decisions are actually pretty complex that all of these companies that operate in China have to think through. Over the years, they've grown critically reliant on China in multiple ways. For example, most of Apple's supply chain is in China. Disney has invested billions of dollars into parks; they have thousands of employees there. Tencent literally just made Activision Blizzard's last game. So saying no to China when they want you to act a certain way is more complicated than just money, and how it would affect a shareholder or some rich person behind the scenes. If these companies were to pull out of China, pretty much every single stakeholder loses. Consumers lose, suppliers lose -- employees, partners, shareholders, all of them have some downside here. So, yeah, we are seeing China take advantage of the fact that our companies have grown reliant on their citizens and their work, their technology, for us to run our business. They are pressing on the free-speech issue. And so far, a lot of companies are bending the knee.

Jason Moser: Yeah, it seems like, in cases like this, this exposes the downside of social media, because everybody seems to now be a foreign-policy expert when it comes to stuff like this. To Aaron's point, people like to make this out to be very binary; it is clearly the total opposite. There's a lot of judgment that comes into play here.

We can use Apple as another example here, in regard to a mapping app that they pulled off of their Store, due to some concerns there that there was credible information that Tim Cook cited, from the Hong Kong police and Apple users in Hong Kong, that the app was being used to maliciously target officers for violence, to victimize individuals. The bottom line is, the potential at least was there for it to harm people. So to sit there and try to make it out to be binary, I think, is incredibly naive. You can't sit there and hold this against a company or an entity for one particular decision, particularly when they are clearly exercising judgment in the matters. I mean, I look at a company like Apple -- there are more companies at play here -- it is a reminder that you can't look at these things and think it is one way or the other. I mean, it's a unique situation. It's a big world. There are a lot of different viewpoints. It's about figuring out a way to all kind of make it work together.

Bush: Yeah. But at the end of the day, I do think that we are seeing that there is consequence and risk here for investors. It's sort of a shame that politics has to get in the way of business, because what our companies want to do, and what people in both these companies want to achieve, is more alike than different. But it does seem like right now, politics is at the forefront of a lot of meaningful business decisions.

Hill: All right, let's bring things closer to home. After five long years, Bed Bath & Beyond shareholders finally got a ray of hope this week in the form of a new CEO. Mark Tritton, currently the executive vice president and chief merchandising officer at Target ( TGT -2.53% ), will take up residence in the corner office next month. Shares of Bed Bath & Beyond [are] up 30% this week, Ron.

Ron Gross: Yeah, Mr. Tritton has his work cut out for him, but I like this move quite a bit -- 30 years of industry experience. As you said, he got things really done at Target. Responsible for store revamps, private-label brands, product sourcing and design.

Bed Bath needs all of that. The company recently announced they'd be closing 60 stores, but they still have around 1,000 stores. I think, and I've said this for quite a while, this company can make it, but they need to reduce their footprint, they need to declutter their stores. The stores don't need to be as big as they are. I do think they can survive. They're still free cash flow positive. They're not a money-losing organization, even with the results of late. But they've got a lot of work to do because obviously, in the world of Amazon and Target and all the other folks, it's a very competitive environment.

Hill: Like you, I think they can make it. And I think Mark Tritton is the person to get it done. But I also think, if he can't, then there's no good reason to keep this business afloat, not when there is increasing competition from, among other places, Tritton's current place of employment, Target.

Gross: Yeah, agreed. There have been three activist investors that have pushed pretty hard here to both replace the board and get a new CEO in. Mission accomplished there. But now the hard work really begins. I think you'll start to see these activists really keep the pressure on, rather than ease up now, to make sure things move forward. As you say, if they don't, then this company will be headed out. There's a fair amount of debt on the books here; I want to say it's close to $4 billion of debt. They need to produce some cash flow to keep this business afloat. Let's see where it goes from here.

Hill: Interactive Corp ( IAC ) owns 80% of online dating company Match Group. On Friday, IAC announced it plans to spin off all those shares. Jason, is it safe to assume they're going to make a tidy little profit off of this?

Moser: Oh, yeah. I mean, they'll definitely realize some gains from the transaction. I think that really for investors, though, it's exciting because it gives you the opportunity to own potentially two really good businesses. I mean, for a long time, you kind of look at Match or IAC and think, "Well, maybe I own one or the other, but perhaps not both," because Match makes up such a big part of IAC's business. But IAC, generally speaking, I mean, this makes a lot of sense for them. This is an investment in their leadership and what you think they can do with their capital. And I mean, so far, shareholders have benefited quite nicely. The stock's up more than 260% over the last three years. Most people may recognize IAC also has a majority interest in ANGI Homeservices, which is things like Angie's List, among others. Those are the two big revenue drivers for IAC.

But IAC stated very clearly, they're not in the consolidation business. They're not really looking to become this big media conglomerate. They're more interested in finding new ways to invest their capital. Shareholders can certainly benefit from that along the way. One of the most recent investments they made, for example, they put $250 million into the car-sharing marketplace Turo. I think that's something that has a lot of potential there. But again, I think this is one of those things -- it was expected. They talked about it their most recent shareholder letter. They just weren't sure exactly when and how they were going to do it. I think that probably a divestment in ANGI will be next. And then from there, again, it's just betting on leadership, and understanding where they see the puck going, the investments they want to make. So far, their track record tells investors they may want to hang on to those shares.

Bush: Right. From the Match perspective, I don't think it's that big of a deal, what's going on here. But I think it is more good than bad. Match has been roped in with IAC for several years now. And for most of that time, there wasn't much in terms of IAC forcing any behavior on Match. But over the past year, due to their influence, they released a special dividend, it was $560 million. To some people, I think it raised questions, because this is something that Match would not have done on its own. It had probably negative implications for the balance sheet. Match has other ways to reinvest. So it was very much a case of the parent company taking advantage of its successful subsidiary. Now, Match will be free of that.

Hill: Shares of Domino's Pizza [are] up this week despite the fact that third-quarter profits and revenue both came in lower than expected. Domino's also cut revenue guidance. Ron, I can't shake the feeling -- this is a rock-solid business, but it really seems like things are slowing down.

Gross: Yeah. I was surprised to see the stock up because they were hurt by growing competition from the folks like Uber Eats, Postmates, Grubhub. They had to replace their three- to five-year forecast with a shorter-term outlook, which brought down revenue targets. Things are not going as well as they had been. They've done a wonderful job over the last five to 10 years, though.

Hill: Shares of Roku [are] up 15% this week, in part because billionaire investor Ken Griffin has taken a stake in the streaming-TV business. Aaron, Roku is down from its highs last month, but over the past 12 months, this has been a great stock.

Bush: Yeah, it's also been probably one of the most volatile stocks I've seen in a while. I feel like how people in general feel about the company just has to do with when they started looking at it. The stock got clobbered in late 2018. And then in the first half of this year, it nearly quadrupled. Then it fell over 40%. And here we are rebounding again on not really much news this week.

But when you look at the fundamentals of the business, I think the upward trajectory in general makes sense. Growth has accelerated because consumers are highly engaged, because Roku has multiple monetization levers. Their platform business -- which is their operating system that comes automatically in TVs -- is scaling rapidly. That will one day have high margins. They continue to take market share. So I don't really think too much about these news items that X analysts upgraded this company, X fund bought this company; I don't think that really matters. It doesn't have anything to do with the business. But I think, just because the stock got hit so hard, people are clinging to the good news and a quick rebound.

Hill: Shares of Helen of Troy hit an all-time high this week after second-quarter profits and revenue came in higher than expected. They also raised guidance for the full fiscal year. Ron, Helen of Troy, not exactly a household name, but they make household products, beauty products, brands that people know.

Gross: Great stuff. OXO brand, Braun, Vicks, Pert, Bed Head. It's a really well-run company. The stock's up 175% over the last five years. This is a company that has been getting it done and continues to get done. Three main divisions: Housewares, up 22% this quarter; beauty, up 9%; the weakness was in health and home, which was down 10%. But they came up against some really tough comps because this quarter last year was very, very strong. But online now represents about a quarter of sales. They know what they're doing from an omnichannel perspective as well. They raised guidance. Adjusted earnings were up 13%. They continue to put up really great results.

Hill: If you're Mark Tritton getting ready to take over Bed Bath & Beyond, maybe put in a phone call to the people running Helen of Troy and see how you can get your online sales moving higher.

Chanticleer Holdings (NASDAQ: BURG) is the parent company of a few fast-casual restaurant chains -- most famously Hooters. Four years ago, the stock went for $35 a share. Today, it trades for less than $1, but management has a plan, guys.

Chanticleer Holdings announced it plans to merge with Sonnet BioTherapeutics in a reverse merger. The restaurants will be spun off. The resulting business -- well, Jason, it'll be the business of developing cancer drugs, because if you can sell burgers, beer, and chicken wings, why not pivot to oncology?

Moser: Extremely complementary businesses, right?

Hill: What is this?!

Moser: Michael Scott's heart stopped for a moment, thinking this might be the end of Hooters, but rejoice, Hooters fans, it is not actually the end of Hooters. To be clear, Chanticleer is a company that owns several franchises of Hooters. I mean, it is not the actual owner of the Hooters business itself. But to your point, they are strange bedfellows indeed.

But really, this is all about the economics behind a reverse merger. And ultimately, it is a small private company merging into a, well, let's say a small public company, now; it used to be a lot bigger. But yeah, the economics behind Chanticleer these days aren't so compelling. But there are some cost savings involved here, where Sonnet will not have to necessarily deal with the process and the expense of compliance of becoming a public company. There are some tax savings that they'll be able to realize as well. I believe there is a New Jersey connection there. Both companies have a presence in New Jersey; perhaps that's how leadership and board members came together to ultimately make this move. But, to your point, it does seem very odd on the surface.

Hill: Yeah, that's what I want to know, Ron. Who was the person in the room who said, "OK, I have an idea for us to cost-effectively become a public company, but stay with me because this is going to get a little weird."

Gross: These reverse mergers do happen. These companies often back into a public shell that doesn't have anything in it except maybe a little bit of cash sometimes. In this case, they'll create a public shell by spinning out the restaurants, Sonnet can back in, become a public company, which is kind of good for a company like a biotech company that needs to access the capital markets from time to time to continue to raise cash. So they'll be public, and maybe that will help them to issue shares later on, assuming they're progressing with their business model. But you don't see this exact structure every day.

Hill: Let's get to the stocks on our radar. Our man behind the glass, Dan Boyd, is going to hit you with a question. Ron Gross, you're up first. What are you looking at this week?

Gross: I've got Target, TGT -- digging in a bit more, even though the stock is up 70% this year. I think discounters like Target, Dollar General, even Walmart are well-positioned. Last quarter was Target's best quarter[ly] performance in years. Same-day fulfillment services are becoming an important part of the business. Digital sales, up 34%. Online sales now account for more than half of total same-store sales. I like what they're doing. Obviously, they just lost their chief merchandise officer, I've heard. But I think they're going to be OK. I think they're well-positioned.

Hill: Dan, question about Target?

Dan Boyd: Not really a question, Chris. I just have to clue Ron in on something. Every year, I think about where I'm going to go holiday shopping. And I always choose not to go to Target because they are invariably the first holiday-themed commercial I see on TV every year. And that usually counts them out for my Christmas and other holiday shopping.

Gross: I'll put that down in my research: "Dan, not shopping."

Hill: Jason Moser, what are you looking at?

Moser: Taking a firm stance, there, isn't he? That's great. Well, it's one that everybody's heard of, Lindblad Expeditions ( LIND 2.36% ), Chris, ticker LIND.

Hill: What?! I'm sorry?

Gross: You made that up.

Moser: It may be a first for Motley Fool Money. I'm going to tell you, this is actually a very cool company. They provide expedition, cruising, and adventure-travel services. If you're looking to go somewhere like, let's say, Alaska or Antarctica, or perhaps the Amazon, or any other number of out-there places, Lindblad Expeditions --

Gross: Does it have to start with an A?

Moser: No, but it doesn't hurt the cause, Ron. They have a strategic alliance with National Geographic, which features co-branding and selling, curating content, which I think really only helps their cause, given the nature of National Geographic's business. That is contracted through 2025. Founder and CEO Sven-Olof Lindblad owns 25% of the company; inside ownership is just under 40%. And while it's admittedly a niche audience, it's still a big market opportunity.

Hill: Dan, question about Lindblad Expeditions?

Boyd: Jason, are you staying on the ship? Or are you going to head off on some excursions when you are on a Lindblad cruise?

Moser: I have to go explore, baby!

Hill: Aaron Bush, what are you looking at?

Bush: I'm looking at another household name, ZScaler ( ZS 3.98% ), ZS. Maybe I brought this up before. If you think about the technology behind work, it's increasingly cloud-based, increasingly mobile-based. Most legacy cybersecurity companies have not been able to adapt well. ZScaler has built a native cloud-based, mobile-based cybersecurity product that has made a lot of old systems like firewalls and VPNs completely obsolete. Growing fast, high insider ownership. Stock's fallen recently. I like it.

Hill: And the ticker?

Bush: ZS.

Hill: Dan?

Boyd: When I hear ZScaler, I think of a fancy fish scaler, and not cybersecurity. But hey, thanks, Aaron!

Bush: You're welcome!

Gross: [laughs] Is there a question in there?

Moser: I'm liking my chances here.

Hill: Dan, you have a stock you want to add to your watch list?

Boyd: I'm with my man J-Mo -- I'm taking Lindblad.

Hill: Ron Gross, Jason Moser, Aaron Bush: Guys, thanks for being here!


Hill: Leander Kahney is the author of several New York Times best-sellers. His latest is Tim Cook: The Genius Who Took Apple to the Next Level. Leander joins me now from San Francisco. Thanks for being here!

Leander Kahney: Oh, you're welcome! Thank you for having me!

Hill: There are a bunch of things in the book I want to get to, particularly Tim Cook's career before Apple and his rise to being CEO. But I want to start with his relationship with the president of the United States. This begins in late 2016, after Donald Trump has been elected, but before he took the oath of office. Tim Cook is part of a group of tech CEOs that meet with him at Trump Tower. A little surprising because during the election, Cook supported Hillary Clinton, and some of his own employees questioned why he would go to a meeting with Trump. Tim Cook wrote an internal message to Apple employees and said: "I've never found being on the sideline a successful place to be. The way that you influence these issues is to be in the arena."

It is natural to compare a CEO to his or her predecessor, particularly so when that predecessor happens to be Steve Jobs. But I'm curious, are you at all surprised at how adept Tim Cook appears to be at the art of politics? Because for all of Steve Jobs' talent and skill, it's hard for me to picture him doing this as effectively as Tim Cook seems to be.

Kahney: I absolutely agree. Yeah, that's totally very true. I think Jobs "irascible" the right word? A bit irascible, I think, to play politics. Tim Cook, I think, definitely is a politician at heart. He knows how to get along with people that he probably wouldn't normally get along with. I think that's the case with President Trump. I don't think it's a natural alliance, but it's an expedient one. I think that he's done very, very well. He doesn't seem to have any pushback from his own employees, which hasn't been the case with some other companies. There have been protests inside [Alphabet's] Google and Microsoft with some of their policies, and some of the people that they're working with that their employees don't like. Apple seems to have skirted that -- well, Tim Cook seems to have skirted that. And he seems to be keeping President Trump happy, too. He seems to be very adept at it.

Hill: Let's get to your book. Tim Cook grew up in Alabama. His dad worked in a shipyard. His mom worked at a local pharmacy. How did his family and growing up in the South help to shape his worldview?

Kahney: It's turned him into a lefty [laughs], I think. It's kind of funny. It has a lot, I think, to do with him being gay, too. I think he was an outsider, growing up in Alabama, but -- again, almost a similar situation with the President -- he kept it very quiet. He was in the closet. He didn't come out as gay. But it must have affected his worldview.

He talked at one time in a speech about coming across the Klan burning a cross on one of the neighbors' lawns when he was out riding his bike late one night, and how he shouted at them to stop, and one of them raised his hood, and it was a local pastor, a local deacon. Not the church that he went to, but it was one of his neighbors. And he said it had a very profound effect on his worldview. It instilled in him this desire to use commerce, companies, businesses, enterprises, as a force for change. This has definitely defined his tenure for the last several years at Apple, since he took over from Steve Jobs: using Apple, the company, to advance a progressive agenda -- in terms of the environment, in terms of inclusivity and diversity, and things like that. And this comes from his childhood in Alabama, and the things that he saw, the inequality, the struggle, I think, and his desire to want to change that.

Hill: After college, he goes to work for IBM for 12 years. Interesting in part because IBM is, in some ways -- considering they're both large tech companies -- the antithesis of Apple, particularly at that point in time. How did his work at IBM inform his experience at Apple?

Kahney: Well, that's where he learned his trade. That's where he learned how to be this incredibly effective master of operations. IBM at the time was a pioneer of what they called "just-in-time manufacturing," which was taken from the car industry. They more or less built computers to order. This was new at the time, and IBM was definitely a pioneer of that. And it was extremely effective, in contrast to Apple at the time -- IBM was firing [on] all cylinders, but Apple was really in deep, deep trouble. This was just before Steve Jobs came back to take over the company. It was mainly because they were either making too many computers, and they were sitting in warehouses full of computers that nobody was buying, or they made too few. If they had a hit product, they couldn't keep up, they couldn't make them in time. And Tim Cook at IBM learned how to run factories, to manage this really beautifully, efficiently. And this is what Steve Jobs needed and wanted. So he recruited Tim Cook.

By this time, Cook had moved on. He had some [time] at Compaq, and then another company. But [Jobs] recruited him to build this system for Apple. This is why they've been so successful. He created this monster.

Hill: It's interesting in part because Tim Cook has this reputation, and it's probably well-earned, of being a very good operator, the model of stability. That's what's interesting, to me anyway, about his move to Apple. He joins Apple in 1998, which is pretty close to the bottom for that company's fortunes. At the time, as you said, he's a VP at Compaq. He's got a good job at a stable company. He has friends who are telling him not to go. Why do you think he made the leap anyway?

Kahney: Because Steve Jobs mesmerized him. He was in Steve Jobs' pocket in the first five minutes -- on board, rather. He was seduced by Jobs. He felt that Jobs was, a legend, obviously, in Silicon Valley. It was just a great opportunity. He bought into the vision, he felt like Jobs and the company could be saved, and that he could play a crucial role in that. So he was on board almost immediately. He's actually talked about this a couple of times and said that it wasn't a rational decision. Rationally, on paper, if he'd written out a list of pros and cons, there would be hardly any pros. It would just be a long list of cons. Like you said, the company was at the bottom. It was about six months from bankruptcy. They had a lot to do. With the benefit of hindsight, it's obviously been super successful, unbelievably successful. But yeah, at the time, it was a very, very risky move. Jobs was very persuasive. But Jobs was also rational, too, I think, as well. I think that definitely appeals to Cook's character. He laid out a plan that was smart, that was rational, smart, and achievable.

Hill: Before we get to Cook assuming the job in the corner office, in terms of his relationship with Steve Jobs, what do you think Cook learned from Steve Jobs that he genuinely did not know, given all of his experience in the tech industry to that point?

Kahney: I would say: taking a risk. I think he learned how to take a risk from Jobs. I think going to work for Steve Jobs was his first risk that he took. I think Cook is...I don't know if "cautious" is the right word; "cautious" makes it sound like he's not willing to take risks, which he is. But he takes calculated risks. One of the things that's defined Steve Jobs' career was his ability to bet the farm time and time again. Jobs took lots and lots of risks, and almost went bankrupt, almost went out of business. Various companies he had, like NeXT, almost went down the pan. I think that defined Jobs' career, this ability to bet the farm, bet the company, on one product after another. I don't think Cook has that same character. I don't think Cook wants to do that. But I think he learned that from Jobs, the ability to step into the darkness and say, "OK, let's just see how it goes."

Hill: In August 2011, Tim Cook becomes CEO. Shortly thereafter, Steve Jobs dies. I think it's worth remembering that there was genuine skepticism about Tim Cook as the leader of this company, and not just because he was following a visionary like Steve Jobs. That's obviously an incredibly tough act to follow. When you think about that point in time, and you think about the skepticism of Tim Cook, is there anything that stands out to you as being completely warranted as a legitimate question? Or, on the flip side, something that was completely unfair?

Kahney: I think the skepticism at the time was completely unfair. The reaction, when it was announced that he was going to take over as CEO, was, I think, one of genuine shock and horror. I don't think anybody came out in Cook's corner at that time. There weren't many people defending him. And that has a lot to do with him being a cipher. People just didn't know about him. He'd been kept behind Apple's iron curtain for almost his entire career. I think he gave about three, maybe four interviews the entire time he was there, and they were very early on, and they were to specialist trade publications; one was called Customer Supply Chain Management magazine -- stuff like that. He had no public face. People were saying, "Oh, Jony Ive, the chief designer, he should be the one to be the CEO. He's obviously more creative [than], or as creative as, Steve Jobs."

But they didn't know what Steve Jobs knew, which is that, behind the scenes, Cook was extremely effective in all sorts of different ways. In fact, Jobs had been grooming him for perhaps a decade as a possible CEO successor candidate. He'd been putting him in all these different positions so he could learn all these different parts of the business. He had this reputation as being a boring operations guy. But in fact, he'd run all kinds of things inside Apple. He'd run the Macintosh division, he'd run hardware, he'd run the stores, he'd run sales for a long time. He'd had a pretty good across-the-board apprenticeship to be a potential successor to Jobs. And Jobs had set that up. But he didn't tell anybody. Jobs was very secretive. He operated on a need-to-know basis.

So, yeah, there was a lot of skepticism when he took over. But I think that came mostly from the fact that he was a not-known quantity. People dismissed him as a boring operations guy. He's not a boring operations guy. He's quite a risk-taker. Look at when he came out as gay. That was something that he did not have to do, and yet, I think it resets the public perception of him as somebody who was his own man.

And if you look now, seven years later, Apple is extraordinarily successful. It's much, much bigger than it was when [Cook] took over. And people are dismissive of that, and say, "Well, it has a lot to do with the momentum that Jobs set up." And that might have been true, I think, in the first couple of years. But now, it's definitely Tim Cook's company, and it has been for quite a few years. The fact that it's firing on all cylinders, it's unfair to attribute that to Steve Jobs anymore. This is Tim Cook and Tim Cook's doing.

Hill: Apple was the first company to hit the $1 trillion mark in terms of market cap. When you just think about the impact that the iPod and the iPhone have had on the music industry and the mobile-phone industry, these are truly revolutionary products. Apple has set the bar incredibly high. And yet, it's natural to ask the question, can this company continue to innovate in the same way? You're someone who studies this company very closely. When we're looking at areas that Apple might disrupt, where should we be looking?

Kahney: They have some secretive skunkworks projects behind the scenes. One of the biggest ones is the Apple car: Project Titan, it's known as, internally. It's rumored to be an autonomous electric car. This has been gestating for several years already, and it could well be several years before we see it. But that, I think, has the potential to be an extremely disruptive product if they're successful in bringing that out. Autonomous cars could rewire everything, from tourism to commuting to travel to how people design cities, where they buy real estate. It would be an extremely disruptive product. We'll see about that.

But more immediately, the Apple Watch is a pretty good example, I think. It's a huge hit product. It's a massive hit product. It's much bigger than both the Mac and the iPad right now. It's much bigger than the iPod ever was. And it has the potential to open up this whole new category of computing, which is based on health and fitness, monitoring your body, telling you what your body is up to, what you should be doing, when you should be standing, how you slept. It's like, at a hospital, one of those charts, the machines they hook up to that tell you your heartbeat and all the other vitals, but it's strapped to your wrist.

I think that we're only just getting started. There's rumors about adding sensors to do blood-sugar tracking. Of course, this would be hugely beneficial for people with diabetes; they potentially wouldn't have to prick themselves and measure their blood anymore. But it would also be useful to everybody, for the entire population. If you eat a doughnut, and then you get a warning from your watch that your blood sugar is spiking, it may create better behaviors for people to manage their diets and for dieting, for how they eat, how much they eat, when they eat. There's a potential to add a lot more, sensors, all different kinds of health and fitness centers.

Jony Ive said to me once: Who wouldn't want to wear a device that might one day save your life? We're already seeing reports of this. People with their heart rates, with EKG, people finding out that they have undiagnosed heart conditions. And, of course, they're small numbers now. But, I think the Apple Watch is a great, great product, and I think it has huge potential.

Hill: That's why I eat doughnuts, Leander. So my blood sugar will spike. That's why I eat them. I don't need my watch to tell me that.

Kahney: I know, who doesn't? Exactly. I totally agree! [laughs]

Hill: Last thing, and then I'll let you go. It's worth remembering that Tim Cook was interim CEO at Apple a couple of times before he got the job full-time. While there was skepticism about him being CEO, there was no surprise. Even when Steve Jobs was the CEO, there came a point in time when we all knew who was going to be next. Tim Cook is 58 years old; he appears to be in very good health. There's no reason to think he wouldn't be CEO for the next 10 years. I am curious, though: Is there any talk that you're aware of regarding who follows him? Who is Tim Cook's Tim Cook?

Kahney: Ah, good question! It seems to be his right-hand man at the moment is Jeff Williams, a longtime operations executive; also worked at IBM. Has been working with Tim Cook almost since the get-go. I think he joined a couple of years after Tim Cook. He's been one of his close colleagues through that whole period when Jobs was CEO. Now it looks like he's being groomed to be the successor. He has moved on from operations. Now he's in charge of the Apple Watch, he's the head of the Apple Watch. In fact, I think he just got put in charge of all hardware. He looks like he's being trained to one day possibly take over the CEO role.

But it's an open question. Apple is very secretive. It doesn't drop any clues at all. This has never been addressed publicly. This is just people speculating from reading the tea leaves and seeing what they're up to.

People are still skeptical of Tim Cook. I think it's kind of crazy. I think he has a clear track record. People are still skeptical about him and say that he's ruining the company -- you see this in comments all the time, and on Twitter, all over the web. People say that someone like Elon Musk should take over the company. They want to see someone like Elon Musk because he's kind of like Steve Jobs: He's brash and flashy and extremely ambitious, doing crazy, futuristic stuff. But I think he wouldn't be a good CEO for a company like Apple. I think someone like Tim Cook is, and possibly someone like Jeff Williams is a good successor to him, too.

Hill: The book is Tim Cook: The Genius Who Took Apple to the Next Level. It's available everywhere you find books. Get yourself a copy! Leander Kahney, thank you so much for being here!

Kahney: You're very welcome! Thanks for having me!


Hill: That's going to do it for this week's Motley Fool Money! Our engineer is Dan Boyd. Our producer is Mac Greer. I'm Chris Hill. Thanks for listening! We'll see you next week!

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis – even one of our own – helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.

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