Marlon Brando has died. The acclaimed and eccentric actor, who made famous the roles of Don Corleone in The Godfather, Colonel Kurtz in Apocalypse Now, and, of course, Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire, passed away in Los Angeles at the age of 80.

Reportedly, the man who once made $4 million for 10 minutes of acting in 1978's Superman spent the latter years of his life with millions in debt (run up defending his son of a homicide charge), living mostly on residuals from his films, Social Security, and a Screen Actors Guild pension.

In today's Motley Fool Take:

Apple's iMac Attack


Seth Jayson

So Apple(Nasdaq: AAPL) won't be delivering its next-generation iMacs in time for the early school season? Is this delay really worth all the panicked headlines, fret, and a hefty trim in the stock price? I don't think so.

Sure, I've argued in the past that Apple's stock has gotten a bit frothy, but I'm willing to cut Cupertino a little slack on this particular stumble. After all, Apple has a tiny, but loyal following in the computer market. To judge by the angry email that flows my way whenever I criticize Jobs and Co., most Mac fans would crawl over a mile of gravel and broken glass in order to get their new machines - or bask in their glorious leader's presence. A few weeks' wait is not going to send them to Microsoft(Nasdaq: MSFT) and its evil handmaidens, Dell(Nasdaq: DELL) and HP(NYSE: HPQ).

The real problem is that the iMac line hasn't been selling. Last quarter, I wrote about the fact that Apple's real sales savior wasn't a computer at all, but the iPod. What I didn't have time to mention then was that the iMac sales has been the firm's preeminent laggard, with sales dropping 20% for the first half of the year.

By contrast, high-end PowerMacs saw a 21% rise, PowerBooks surged 32%, and iBooks notched a 26% gain. Can the new-generation iMac turn this around? Perhaps, but since Apple's other products are better sellers, it should be no hardship for the firm to push them for a few weeks until the new iMacs come online.

Shareholders, however, need to keep their eyes on the entire picture. Apple stock has walloped the market over the past few months, but it sports a P/E ratio of 65, the kind of premium normally reserved for fast-growing newcomers or faultless juggernauts, and Apple, despite its recent successes, is neither of those.

Fool contributor Seth Jayson owns shares of Ceradyne, but no other company mentioned.

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The Reluctant Multimillionaire


Rick Aristotle Munarriz (TMF Edible)

It seems like only yesterday that DVD rental specialist Netflix(Nasdaq: NFLX) had landed its millionth paying subscriber. OK, technically it happened last year in February. However, now that the company's client base has topped the 2 million mark, where does the budding multimillionaire go next?

The answer isn't as easy as 3 million, naturally. With the early adopters signed up and the game turning to market penetration, the road doesn't get any easier.

What is apparent is that many of the fears put up by the company's critics proved to be unfounded. There was a time when some feared that retailing juggernauts like Wal-Mart(NYSE: WMT) and Blockbuster(NYSE: BBI) would eat Netflix's lunch. It turns out that they're still ordering from the kids' menu.

Video on demand (VOD) was supposed to expose Netflix's mail-delivered model as a snail-paced dinosaur. However, while the cable companies continue to make strides in broadening their selection and incorporating more flexible viewing features, there seems to be plenty of VO but not enough of the D.

The prospects are even dimmer for movie studios like Time Warner(NYSE: TWX) and Sony(NYSE: SNE) that are trying to persuade movie buffs to squint in front of their laptops and PCs through their Movielink offering.

So maybe it's time to let Netflix walk the red carpet proudly amid the flashbulbs of the cynical paparazzi. It's earned the spotlight. The stock proved to be a great trade for Stock Advisor readers last year, with the stock nearly tripling between the buy and sell recommendations. But it better not rest on its laurels.

The company closed out the June quarter with just 3% of its subscribers on free trials. I can't recall it ever being that low. The initial reaction may be that it's a blessing for Netflix to find 2,024,000 merrily paying customers. It clearly vindicates the product and, just as important, given the company's recent price hike, its value. But having just 69,000 more users taking the company up on the free trials isn't that comforting.

Why? Because that's where the future growth will come from. While Netflix was able to grow its user base by 82% over the past year, and it's only logical to expect that pace to slow with every passing year, one is left to color in the degree of that gradual decline.

A year ago, the company had 46,000 users kicking its virtual tires. So 69,000 temporary freeloaders is an improvement, but only to the tune of 50%.

The beacon of hope is that the rest of the country will follow the San Francisco Bay Area's lead. While it is the company's home turf, signing up 7.6% of the area households is impressive. Market penetration everywhere else is at just 1.8%, but climbing.

So keep a cautious eye on that beacon, but don't be surprised if it winds up becoming yet another spotlight worth shining on the company.

For a great read on the current state of Netflix, check out this week's column by Daniel Hong.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz singled out the stock in the October 2002 edition of TMF Select, which later evolved intoMotley Fool Hidden Gems. It was a memorable call, given the fact that the stock was bottoming out at a split-adjusted $5.45 a share at the time. Rick has been a Netflix customer -- and shareholder -- since 2002.

Discussion Board of the Day: Airlines

After being denied government loans for the third time, United Airlines will have to make deep cuts to wages, jobs, and benefits to exit bankruptcy. Will the beleaguered airline cut pensions, leaving the government with the tab? If so, would it trigger other ailing airlines to do the same? Share your views with other Fools on our Airlines discussion board.

Patience Is Profitable


Chris Mallon

Benjamin Graham, father of value investing, once said, "In the short-term the market is a voting machine, in the long-term, a weighing one." This little pearl of wisdom is something every investor should understand before plunging into the market. Let me illustrate.

It was about this time three years ago, in the midst of a bear market that had brought shares of powerful tech companies like EMC(NYSE: EMC) and Yahoo!(Nasdaq: YHOO) down 70% to 90% from their highs, when I decided to put some money into a successful, century-old motorcycle company known as Harley-Davidson(NYSE: HDI).

At around $47 per share in 2001, Harley's price-to-earnings ratio was near 36, normally too high for my tastes. However, I was convinced my analysis was sound (I hoped), and I held for more than two years, collecting a tiny dividend, while the stock went nowhere. Graham's wisdom was my only solace as I watched Mr. Market ignore my favorite motorcycle maker. Operationally, the company was doing great. Earnings per share had more than doubled, and free cash was up 53% since my purchase.

Still, it took Mr. Market nearly three years to catch on. The stock, trading at $50 per share in late January 2004, has since risen to $62, up 23% in just five months. My investment went from a 7% total return (including dividends) to 32% while I just watched. Ironically, because of the tremendous earnings growth of the last few years, Harley's stock is cheaper, based on P/E, than when I bought it, despite the run-up.

Anheuser-Busch (NYSE: BUD) has followed a similar pattern. An investment at $51 per share in June 2002 had generated a measly 1.4% return (all thanks to dividends) in late January 2004, despite EPS growth of 31% between 2001 and 2003. The beer maker's stock trades around $54 now.

Incidentally, dividends provide an important source of return when the stock prices are stagnant. Just ask Altria(NYSE: MO) investors, whose extremely volatile stock is essentially the same price it was two years ago. Dividends may be boring, but Mathew Emmert's Income Investor can show you how they're also profitable.

Implicit in Graham's statement is the idea that over time, the market will value a company for its intrinsic value. If you do a thorough analysis of a company, and trust your intrinsic value estimate, you can wait for Mr. Market to come around, and maybe collect some cash dividends along the way.

Fool contributor Chris Mallon owns shares of Harley-Davidson, Altria, and Anheuser-Busch through his private investment partnership.

Quote of Note

"True individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made." -- Franklin D. Roosevelt

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