Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL)
trading at $14.69 as of 10/24/02

It just isn't Halloween until you find yourself bobbing for Apple(Nasdaq: AAPL). Yes, the same company that has found design inspiration in teardrops, flowers, and tissue boxes -- items more at home at a funeral wake than a desktop -- is, in fact, quite alive. I realize that the market doesn't see things that way. I don't see too many folks in the bobbing line with me. It's taken the company half a year to shed half its share price, and I don't "half" to tell you what that means.

That's right. Folks think Apple is rotten to the core. Why else would a company with more than $10 a share in cash trade for just a few bucks more? Yet even as it has spent years yielding PC market share and relinquishing its classroom lead to Dell(Nasdaq: DELL), it has managed to stay profitable through many rough stretches.

Bouncing between feast and famine comes with the orchard. As a matter of fact, unless I snoozed one too many times through history class, every time Apple has traded near its greenbacks level, it has eventually come back to rally another day. Sooner or later, the investing masses rediscover Apple's edge.

You've probably heard bad things about computer makers. After decades of growth, unit sales dropped for the first time this past year. From a slowdown in corporate spending to market saturation, the skidmarks are everywhere. So, naturally, investors have been thinking outside the box.

That's fine. Why don't you take off that Alan Greenspan mask and take a dip. For starters, as bad as things appear to be, signs indicate the company's ready to tug at the industry's tug-of-war rope again. Its growing chain of retail stores has converted a respectable portion of the Microsoft(Nasdaq: MSFT) crowd. Its latest version of the iPod MP3 player has been an early hit in its Windows-friendly format. And Apple won't give up the classroom without a fight, as it's mailing out free copies of its new OS X software to teachers this year.

I know. The company is talking down its profit targets. This isn't Apple's time to shine. It's got classic curves, and these are waiflike times. Being pretty and having a good personality don't come cheap, and cost-conscious shoppers have opted for the bargain machines. But when the economy bounces back and that pent-up demand for distinctive quality machines erupts, you want to be in the thick of the molten lava.

Right now, the market is pricing Apple as if it's rotting produce. This isn't a commodity company making eye-candy hardware. Apple's programs rock the Mac world, and gizmos like QuickTime rock the Windows turf, too. Its FileMaker database software not only works in Windows, but gets small with the Palm(Nasdaq: PALM) OS and Pocket PC formats.

Apple's strong in the online space, where the language is universal, as well. Its Xserve servers provide cross-platform support for Unix, Linux or, once again, Windows.

Put it all together (and I'm leaving things out because there's a trick-or-treater at my door), and you'll see there's more to the picture than an upscale niche player selling at panhandler prices.

Take a bite of the delicious Apple, a healthy alternative to Halloween's other treats.

While Rick Aristotle Munarriz lives in a Microsoft world, he bought his mother-in-law an Apple last year, and she loves it more than she loves her son-in-law. He thinks. Rick's stock holdings can be viewed online, as can the Fool's disclosure policy.

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