One of the cool things about the new Motley Fool CAPS stock-picking feature is the ability to see what bulls and bears think of any given stock at any given time.
Let's take Apple Computer
Investors have to make their decisions based on the future. And that's just what I found when I began to sample some of the pitches from the Apple bulls and bears in CAPS.
Let's take a closer look at both camps and see where you stand when we're done.
For the love of Apple
Earlier this week, the tally of CAPS participants with an interest in Apple leaned mostly toward the bullish side. While 88 players think an investment in Apple will underperform the market, 402 players have the stock rated as an outperform.
Here is what a few of the bulls had to say in recent months:
Apple has been on quite a run; are the good times over? Don't bet on it. A new generation of iPods will be hitting store shelves this fall, just in time for another red-hot Christmas shopping season. Considering that many of us, including myself, have filled up our existing iPods, there will be many looking to buy new versions of the Nano with larger memory. Plus, what alternative do we have? Apple music only plays on Apple players ... nice call, Apple. But the real driver of growth over the next few years may actually come from its desktop division. Don't laugh. Its iMac is a marvel in and of itself, and now that it uses a universal binary system as well as Intel
Here's what everyone forgets: Apple has barely scratched the surface as a retailer, and its existing stores are both profitable and get high marks. Is 31 times forward earnings too much? No, not when earnings, which have grown at a 77% CAGR [compound annual growth rate] over the past five years, are expected to expand by more than 20% annually to 2011. I'll take my chances, thanks.
Apple is the source of great ideas and is in an industry where ideas = $$$. They own a tiny slice of the market share ... but their name is as well known as Microsoft. They have been gaining on market share every year, and new Mac sales are way up. Apple may never be the industry leader, but they have tons of room to grow.
The valuation's astronomical, and red-hot iPod sales are finally beginning to cool. Still, Apple didn't get this far by being stupid. Faster Intel-powered Macs with the capability to run Windows will help, as will the inevitable debut of the iTunes Movie Store and next-generation video iPod, once Apple gets the stubborn, greedy movie studios to knuckle under. But I still think the greatest boost will come from an entirely new iPod-like gadget that no one will see coming. Underestimate Steve Jobs' marketing savvy, and Apple's ability to make and market stylish, well-designed products, at your own peril.
My daughter just went to college, and she asked for an Apple laptop. After getting there, she noted how many of her friends were using Apples. Also, her high school classmates, after seeing and using her laptop, all began asking for Apples. I believe that Peter Lynch said something about investing in what you notice others are using and enjoying.
Taking a bite out of the Apple
Impressed by the bullish arguments? Now let's take a closer look at what the bears feel that the market is missing when it comes to Apple.
AAPL has been a rocket over the last couple of years, but the momentum is slowing as the economy cools off, and less discretionary spending with the increase in oil is cooling this one off. Everyone has an iPod or two, and the growth seen over the last couple of years is starting to slow a bit. AAPL needs to be perfect in order to see the growth achieved over the last couple of years, but one bad announcement will mean doom for this one. We've seen it before, after iMac sales cooled in 1999. Moving to Intel chips is a good sign that the computer growth will continue to grow, but not enough to keep the stock price at levels currently seen.
I think Apple is always going to be the Betamax to Bill Gates' VHS. Apple may have a superior product (though I don't have a strong opinion on that myself, having been left indifferent after using both Macs and Windows-based computers), but it's always going to serve a niche market that appeals to techies and computer geeks, while the Great Unwashed will continue to go about their lives with their Windows products. As for the iPod -- sorry, but it's a fad. And it's not even the best MP3 player out there, in my opinion. Now that, I DO have a strong opinion on.
Apple really has nowhere to go but down at this point. Everyone who wants an iPod has one, and they tend to break a lot, which is leading to frustration among consumers. Plus, the Mac is never going to take over. I think their stock price has been built up over a long period (and rightfully so; they've made a ton of money from music lately), and the growth isn't sustainable.
Let's face it -- the IPod is nothing more than a piece of hardware which will eventually become more and more of a commodity that is faced with continual pricing pressures. While the early mover advantage can lead to very nice returns in the early stages of the product life cycle, the later stages are dominated by low-cost producers -- something which Apple doesn't exactly have a storied history of being.
They've had to restate their earnings and the way they handle stock options. Anybody but me think this has negative consequences for a company?
Is Apple ripe for you?
So now you may be left scratching your chin. That's not bad, actually. Apple is currently selling all but a quarter of the portable-music players out there in this country, but SanDisk
There is definitely a lot to be said for both sides of the Apple story. Feel free to join the community members who are participating in the beta service, and share some thoughts of your own.
Motley Fool CAPS is a free, new community-driven experience, where individual investors pool their knowledge to seek out superior stock ideas. Are you up for the challenge? Go ahead and give it a shot .
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz believes in taking chances to earn superior returns. He does not own shares in any of the companies in this story. Rick is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy .