|by Wes George
Apple Makes History and a Little Consumer Portable Speculation
July 13th, 1999
This is an historic moment for Apple investors. Apple has finally vanquished six years of sub-$50 stock price levels and established a new higher, as yet undefined, trading range. Expect a period of consolidation and perhaps a few burps, a 22% gain in one week can be hard to digest.
The earnings for Apple's last quarter will hit the street on Wednesday and it's no secret that the numbers will trounce the estimates soundly. This news has already been incorporated into today's price so don't count on a stock price bump up just because Apple, yet again, beat the earnings estimates.
Rumors suggest that sales numbers for the current quarter are already stacked so deep that Apple secretly expects its sales to exceed quotas less than halfway through the quarter. No wonder the analysts are tripping over each other to raise their AAPL price targets into the $75 range. The only question is whether Apple can ramp up production fast enough to meet demand, especially for the critical Christmas season.
Remember how well the iMac did last Christmas? It's going to do even better this Christmas. In fact, the iMac's biggest competition for best selling information appliance of the year is likely to be the new Consumer Portable.
Thanks to Apple's low profile and laid back approach to advertising, many people, otherwise perfectly intelligent, haven't ever heard of, much less seen, an iMac. As Mac users, we find that hard to believe, but believe me, I have recently collected quite a bit of anecdotal evidence that suggests to the average consumer the iMac is at least as hot, as fresh, and as timely a "fashion" as it was last year. The iMac is in no danger of commodification or of saturating the market.
I still find it shocking that there is nary a credible PC threatI hardly consider the single iMac rip-off worth even a salutary commentto the iMac a year after introduction. Who would have guessed that the PC manufacturers would be so slow, so inept, so smitten with their own past success that they would ignore the iMac phenomenon for a whole year?
Apple has succeeded in regaining the role of innovation leader of the PC pack. The iMac and the consumer portable, according to such PC luminaries as Michael Dell and Andy Groves, are design forms capable of rewriting the rules for the PC manufacturing game. Apple is once again the guiding light of the entire industry leading the way out of the square beige darkness that has benighted the PC paradigm. But no one is following.
Oh well, who cares?
A hope for everyone's future: The Consumer Portable
The consumer portable holds more long-term promise than most people imagine. It's much more than just a cutesy little sub-PowerBook. This thing has the potentiala long shot admittedlyto be the one-two knock out punch for the printed paper-pulp school textbook industry.
In theory, the consumer portable's hardy LEXAN shell combined with 8-hour battery life, and inexpensive price could make it the only tool kids need for all their classes. It's multi-Gigabyte hard drive could hold a stack of text books and still have plenty of room for note-taking, homework assignments, games, apps, whatever.
The P1 used in this revolutionary role would make its debut at the university level. By autumn 2000, select high schools might began trial tests of the P1. By 2001 we could see school districts began, in earnest, large-scale adoption of the consumer portable and start phasing out district textbook warehouses.
In two years, today's state of the art P1 will look a bit more mundane and certainly be far cheaper, perhaps as low as $300 dollars or less. Moore's law guarantees that the rate of computer hardware price depreciation will continue unabated for at least another decade.
At that price point the consumer portable would hardly be more expensive than textbooks are to maintain for a school district but far more functional. Especially if touch screen software is used so that the P1 can function as a scratch pad for math calculation or notetaking.
If the consumer portable is wireless, each teacher could rapidly up/download assignments, monitor individual performance and provide personalized tutorials on a daily basis. Even without wireless capabilities, the same feature could be accomplished by Etherneting the classroom.
If this scenario seems ahead of its time, that's because the nation's education system is almost medieval in its inefficiency. Sure, there is likely to be resistance among the same Luddite populations who think teaching evolution is an atheist plot. But the almost unimaginably vast market potential is a guiding beacon.
Even greater is the increase in teaching productivity that digitizing our nations classrooms would bring. It's shocking that students are taught with chalk and slate, paper and pencil, technologies from the 17th century, and then turned loose to learn on the job in our information based economy. There is much truth to Marshall McLuhan's observation that the "medium is the message". The marginalized role digital knowledge and teaching systems play in our schools is unforgivable.
Rapid change in our classrooms isn't just inevitable; it should be a top priority war effort. It should be an undertaking comparable in scope to the liberty ship project of WWII or the Marshall Plan. Nothing less than this nation's leadership role in the world economy of the next century is at stake. A fitting task for that insanely great computer company from Cupertino.
|(In fact, it's about the only reason, I can imagine, that's insanely great enough to compel Steve Jobs to stay at Apple. Can Steve be happy selling an information appliances for the rest of his life or is he planning to introduce an upward phase shift in the education process for all future generations? Steve is a techno-prophet not a Maytag repairman style corporate steward. If Apple can't generate a cause de résîstance of mythological proportions for Steve to tackle here, at the end of the millennium, then he'll move on to the NeXT big bang.)
[Editor's Note: For more along this topic, read Apple For Sale Part I and Apple For Sale Part II.]
As Alan Greenspan noted, there are 350,000 unfilled IT jobs in the US and our school systems are doing literally nothing to prepare students for their future. How can they? They haven't the right tools or the right paradigm.
In comes Apple, already a familiar and trusted partner to our nation's educators, with the perfect, all in one, end to end solution.
Hello, again. This time it's the P1.
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Wes George writes about the financial side of being a Mac nut. Wes has followed Apple's finances for the last 7 years and comes to The Mac Observer every Monday to tell all about his opinions. He is, in his own words, "inordinately fond of money." If you would like to write Wes, make it nice. Someday you might own a company that has something to do with Apple, and Wes will probably still be writing for The Mac Observer...... On the other hand, Mr. George is known to love a rousing, hair-raising debate, so send him your worst!
Disclaimer: This column is for informational and entertainment purposes. While Mr. George may be sage indeed, his writings can not be construed as a solicitation to buy, nor an offering to sell any particular stock. As with any trading in the financial markets, you must use your own judgment to make the best trades that you can. Neither The Mac Observer nor Wes George may be held accountable for trading advice.