Last week, Apple Inc. (AAPL) surprised markets with a lackluster first-quarter earnings report that sent shares on an eight-day tumble — Apple’s worst streak in more than a decade. AAPL, once a market darling, fell nearly 10% in five days and is off more than 25% in the past year of trading.
However, Apple Inc. CEO Tim Cook appeared unfazed by the negativity as he spoke to Jim Cramer on CNBC on Monday.
Maybe he should’ve been a little more shaken up.
Tim Cook offered up a plethora of excuses for the firm’s disappointing sales figures, including a stronger dollar and the economic slowdown in China. However, despite his best efforts, Tim Cook was unable to convince investors that Apple Inc. is still in a power position.
Instead, Cook’s remarks caused many to question whether AAPL stock would return to its former glory under his leadership.
Tim Cook’s unrelenting optimism and calls for blind faith from investors are beginning to lose their effect now that AAPL stock is sliding and more than a quarter below its all-time highs set in 2015. He brushed off the company’s first-ever decline in iPhone sales, saying that Apple customers are still happy with their devices and that last year’s unusually high upgrade rate was partly to blame for the poor sales figure.
However, on last year’s earnings call, Cook made no mention of an irregular upgrade rate, causing some to call his bluff.
Not only did Cook’s overly optimistic tone cause a lot of skepticism on Wall Street, but the firm’s secretive product pipeline also lost some of its appeal as well.
When the stock was on the rise, promises of new shiny new gadgets were enough to placate investors. But with AAPL in the doghouse, investors want more than vague descriptions like “things you can’t live without that you just don’t know you need today.”
Tim Cook Needs a Little Innovative Spark
Clearly, Tim Cook’s damage control efforts were not enough to lift Apple investors’ spirits — shares finished Monday flat.
Instead, the Apple CEO has added fuel to the argument that he is unable to fill former chief Steve Jobs’ shoes as an innovator. Many believe that since Jobs’ departure, AAPL has failed to deliver the kind of cutting-edge products the public has come to expect, and it’s hard to argue that.
So far, the only new device Apple has released since Cook too the reins has been the Apple Watch, which received a lot of hype in the run-up to its release … but the wearable’s hefty price tag and limited capabilities have kept it from becoming a consumer sensation.
While the watch was considered a dud by many, Tim Cook says it will take time to catch on and that in the coming years people will wonder how they ever lived without one. With the second-generation model rumored to be out later this year, it remains to be seen whether Cook’s optimism will ring true.
But either way, with demand for iPhones on the decline, AAPL is in need of another must-have gadget.
Focus On Services
While Tim Cook hasn’t made a name for himself by introducing new devices that change the landscape of technology this far, he has the opportunity to innovate in a different way: through Apple’s services arm.
Services like Apple Pay and the iTunes Store have become Apple’s second-largest source of revenue, and there’s a lot of potential there. As one of the largest and most well-known brands in the world, AAPL has a huge pool of potential customers to capitalize on.
Cook’s efforts to bring Apple Pay to merchants around the country have been largely successful, and many are expecting the service to take off over the next few years as digital payments become more and more popular.
The streaming space is another place Apple has room to grow as more and more people turn to online options for TV and music. Under Cook, AAPL has already rolled out Apple Music, and there are rumors that a TV and movie streaming service is up next.
Get Back to Your Strengths, Too
While Tim Cook’s credibility as an innovator is debatable, he has been commended for his strength in managing operations — and that’s one area in which “being himself” can still make a difference.
For that reason, it was surprising to see that AAPL had some supply chain issues last quarter. The firm failed to meet the high demand for its low cost iPhone SE, and iPhone inventories rose.
In the coming year, Cook will need to prove his competence and work on balancing supply and demand to silence calls for him to abandon his seat at the helm.
Can He Do It?
Digging Apple out of its rut is likely to be a challenge, but its one that Tim Cook appears to be up for.
Apple Inc. has made its name by producing products that change the way we live our lives — and in that capacity, AAPL’s reign may be coming to an end.
However, that doesn’t mean that Apple stock under Tim Cook can’t thrive — especially if he plays to his strengths by tightening up operations and looking for new avenues to grow revenue.
As of this writing, Laura Hoy was long AAPL.