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ATPM 7.01
January 2001


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Apple Cider: Random Squeezings From a Mac User

by Tom Iovino,

This New Year’s R-Word

Isn’t it great to be celebrating the arrival of the new millennium? I know, everyone made the big stink last January when the calendars rolled to 2000, but I’m sure we are all aware that January 2001 actually marks the beginning of the new millennium.

That never stopped the giant hype machine.

One of the by-products of last year’s New Year’s nonsense was that people were filled with a desire to make that event a memorable one. In addition to blowing big bucks to be in an interesting foreign city or at a historically or geographically significant site (except for me—I was home by myself watching Dick Clark), most folks sat down and made a long list of Resolutions for the New Year.

Looking back on 2000, I should have taken their lead and made a few of my own. I know I should have vowed to lay off the rocky road ice cream!

Well, there’s no better time than the present to put pen to paper and scratch out my list of resolutions. For instance, in 2001, I resolve to never read the drivel that tech stock analysts spew forth, especially when it comes to Apple Computer.

Y’all know what I’m talking about.

You don’t? OK, let’s try this. Everyone who lost money on their Apple stock this year raise your hand.

Nine…ten…eleven…OK, that’s a lot of folks. More than I can count.

Hey, it’s a long fall from the low 75’s to the mid 14’s. That’s quite a tumble for a stock that performed so well over the past few years. And, once that happened, it was easy for some financial hacks to take a swipe at the company based on some of the decisions Jobs and company have made that contributed to this downturn. Most notably, there was the Cube, which fell outside of the marketing strategy that got Apple out of the jam it was in to begin with.

But, you know what? If you owned shares in Gateway, Dell, Intel, or Microsoft, you would have seen similar drops in value.

If this is the case, what’s my beef with the reporting on Apple?

The problem is that no one is mentioning that these other companies are “in trouble.” No one is even suggesting that these companies may go belly up.

Yes, folks, believe it or not, some market watchers out there are trying to return the beleaguered tag to Apple Computer.

I almost want to grab those lame brains and remind them of another R word—one which is usually whispered in fear among investors. The big R word that makes the entire economic landscape look a little more bleak.

Can you say Recession?

Think about it—for the past nine years or so, the US economy, as well as the economies of other industrialized nations, has been working pretty robustly. Inflation and interest rates have been held in check, and people have been feeling good about the economy. (Isn’t that amazing? There’s a generation of children in grade school, some as advanced as fifth grade, who have never personally witnessed a recession. For the vast majority of these kids, prosperity is all they know. Daddy has never been laid off. They have never had to rely on food stamps.)

The pump that has driven this economic surge has been—and this may be news for you if you have been living under a rock—technology. The explosion of the Internet in the early 1990s, coupled with the profusion of dot coms in the mid to late 90s, has inflated the worth of the international stock markets and delayed a possible recession.

But now, it looks as if the bloom is off the rose. Just as the railroad stocks a century earlier, tech stocks have seemed like an ironclad way to a fortune. But now, I fear we are entering a period of recession. Tech stocks, and others trading in the broader markets such as General Motors, Maytag, and Owens Corning, are trading well below their 52-week highs. More companies are issuing warnings that their fourth quarter earnings won’t meet projections. It seems as if the Recession engine is gathering steam.

But, you won’t hear about any of these companies preparing to go belly-up.

No sir.

That’s because long-lived companies—especially those in the non-tech field—have survived recessions before.

Well, Apple’s been there and done that. It’s not going away anytime soon because the company has proven itself time and again. Just when you think the company’s going down for the count, it finds a way to bounce back. How is that so? Well, Apple has three important intangible assets that some other market survivors have.

First, they offer a unique product. Yes, there are other home computers. And, yes, Windows looks an awful lot like the Mac OS. But, the latter is still easier to set up and use than any flavor of Windows. Plus, the hardware folks have given the iMac, iBook, and G4 towers a stylish look that makes them stand out from the crowd.

Two, they have a solid reputation and name recognition. When you say Apple MacIntosh, your mind conjures up images of an innovative product, the famous 1984 commercial or the latest Jeff Goldblum ads. That’s how a brand goes about working its way into consumers’ homes.

Finally, Apple has a devoted customer base. There are some people who won’t use any brand of insulation other than Owens Corning. Some folks won’t drink any other soft drink than Coca Cola. And, we all know that some folks won’t be caught dead using any other computer than a Mac. Period.

So, as we enter 2001, the true beginning of the new millennium, it pays to make a few additional resolutions in addition to the typical “Gee, I gotta lose ten pounds” standbys.

First, remember that if the stock market falls to pieces and the economy tanks, this too shall pass. Just as surely as the leaves return to the trees in the spring, we will enter a new phase of economic growth and prosperity.

Next, keep in mind that if what you are doing isn’t helping to bring you happiness, you need to change what you are doing. That goes for any and all fields of endeavor.

Finally, remember that no market analyst has a crystal ball that can accurately tell the future of Apple or any other company. If they did, what the heck are they doing writing a column for a magazine with an editor breathing down their necks to ensure they meet their deadline?

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