After years of riding a tsunami of positive publicity, Apple finds itself pushing back against a rising perception that its best years are behind it. Not that the underlying metrics support such a perception: last quarter, the company enjoyed record revenues and sold millions of devices. Nonetheless, that negative buzz has sent the stock plunging from its all-time highs.
At the Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet conference Feb. 12, Apple CEO Tim Cook began a pushback—against the investors who want Apple to behave in a more market-friendly manner, and the naysayers screaming from the rooftops about how the company’s momentum is rapidly grinding to a halt.
“We are managing Apple for the long term,” Cook told the audience, according to Bloomberg. “I know people worry about quarters. We care, but the product decisions we make are for Apple’s long-term health, not for the short 90-day clock.”
Over the past few days, rumors have abounded of an Apple wristwatch in development. Although details of this “iWatch” are sketchy, news sources such as MacWorld have suggested the device could act as an additional interface, alerting the user to calls or texts from the iPhone in their pocket; if one wants to tread more firmly into the realm of science fiction, it’s easy to picture the watch as a tiny screen for Apple’s FaceTime video conferencing. The New York Times also wondered, in a Feb. 10 article, whether an Apple timepiece would integrate mapping or biometrics—and certainly either option is possible.
But as Dan Lyons wondered in a Feb. 11 column on ReadWrite, the timing of the iWatch rumors seems a tad auspicious. “Does no one else think it’s kind of remarkable that this unreleased product suddenly starts showing up in dozens of blog posts and press stories?” he wrote. “And that these leaks happened, coincidentally, right after Apple’s stock endured a brutal slide from just above $700 in September to a low of $435 in January?”
Given how much of the criticism directed at Apple seems to focus on how its vaunted innovation pipeline has seemingly run dry, it stands to reason that any new and groundbreaking product—or even the rumor of one—would go a long way to helping restore the company’s luster.
However, Cook largely avoided talking about new products during his presentation, maintaining his company’s well-known reputation for secrecy. He did mention that, although Apple had considered a few companies for acquisition target, it had yet to pull the trigger on any sort of major deal. “Cash isn’t burning a hole in our pocket,” he told the audience (again, according to Bloomberg). “We’re disciplined and thoughtful and we don’t feel a pressure to go out and acquire revenue. We want to make great products. If a large company could help us do that even better, we’d consider it.”
Apple also plans on expanding its number of stores worldwide. Combined with whatever products it has waiting in the wings, that could be enough to help buoy its profits throughout 2013—but whether that changes the all-important perception remains to be seen.