Wall Street Remains Clueless as Ever as to Apple’s Products

From all the chatter I’ve heard on Wall Street, I get the sense that many PC analysts – long wed to the windows world – have no clue what to make of the mini Mac. I cannot say I am surprised.
Just last year, one PC analyst at a bulge bracket firm suggested Apple sell itself to Sony. Another suggested that Apple start producing Windows machines, or use Intel chips.
Umm, no.
This is part of a long term misunderstanding of Apple by the Street. Most of them don’t “get” Apple; They certainly haven’t been able to figure out Steve Jobs. And since all but one (that I know of) work primarily on a Windows machine, they never really understood what the fuss about the Mac was all about.
Until the iPod came along. Apple created a category killer by engineering a marvelous piece of user friendly technology made from essentially off the shelf components. The secret sauce was their terrific user interface. That forced some Analysts to start getting clued into what the cult of Macintosh was all about.
But what about this new Mac mini?

Understand what Apple is doing with the mini:

1) It’s a Windows replacement machine;

2) Geeks like it!

3) It’s potentially the centerpiece for a Home theatre

4) It’s a cheap 2nd Apple for faithful MacHeads

Let’s focus on #2 today (#1 will be the subject of a Street.com column later this week).
In the old days, geeks recommended Windows because they were a “standard,” they let admins under the hood pretty regularly — and they were cheap.

Indeed, the original name for Windows 95 was “the IT department full employment act.”

It was buggy, difficult to maintain, vulnerable and crash prone – but it was the industry standard. Any IT guy you spoke to in the mid 90s would tell you how much cheaper the Wintel machines were to buy, how much more software there was for it.

What he didn’t tell you was how much higher the cost of ownership was – namely his salary. Its eventually became his entire support staff’s salary.

The result of that “bias” has been costly to maintain PC networks in most offices, and unsupported PCs in most homes. Every home PC user who has ever had a major Windows headache – security issues, virus infections, corrupted ini files, missing dll library – is desperate for an easy to use alternative.

Here we are a decade later, and a new generation of younger IT employees have inherited these headaches from their predecessors. And, to judge by the geek blogs and websites, they are none to happy about it. From Malware to spam hijacking to Explorer vulnerabilities, keeping a windows network running – or even a single internet connected machine – is a time consuming, frustrating job.

For what most people use their PCs for – email, internet surfing, music playing / CD burning, word processing – this is all the machine they need.

And Geeks like it! They really like it! — And they are key influencers of purchases by many people . . .

Some Wall Street comments on Apple’s earning:


Apple shipped 337,000 G5 iMacs, above our 200,000 estimate, providing evidence Apple is successfully converting higher awareness into computer sales. We have long viewed this as the key for sustainability of Apple’s longer-term story. Apple’s first-quarter results provided evidence the company is successfully re-establishing itself as a viable competitor in its core segment (computers), thus moving beyond the iPod’s hype.
Joel Wagonfeld, First Albany Capital, who maintained a “buy” rating on the stock

* * *

The focus of our more positive view is CPU growth from both the demand and supply side – we have conducted exit interviews at Apple stores and two proprietary surveys with over 775 responses, and believe that Apple can grow its consumer share. Our survey work indicates strong brand appeal and interest in converting from Windows systems to Macs based on better media capabilities and virus protection.
Keith Bachman, Banc of America Securities, who his raised rating on Apple shares to “buy” from “neutral” and raised the price target to $85 from $75

* * *

Macworld turns out to be only the appetizer to a much bigger earnings feast. … While there is anecdotal evidence of the pull of iPod starting to translate into incremental Mac sales, the only way to gauge whether there truly is the beginning of a halo effect is to see it in a quarter without channel fill and major seasonality, such as the March quarter. With the frenzy around Apple back in force, we are hard pressed to suggest stepping in now with fresh money, even as the shares are likely to move higher today based on short covering and estimate increases.
David C. Bailey, Laura Conigliaro, Goldman Sachs, who have a “in line” rating on the stock

* * *

We’re still gauging the right multiple for Apple — a function of visibility, execution and competition. Despite strong music growth, we didn’t stretch our 25-times multiple given low visibility into new products and lack of evidence to support a “coattails effect.”
Andrew J. Neff, Bear Stearns, who is increasing his price target to $87, and reiterating his “outperform” rating

* * *

While PC shipments were generally in line with our aggressive estimates, we note that Apple grew total PC unit shipments 26% year over year, roughly 2 1/2 times the rate of the world-wide PC market. This is the first quarter displaying irrefutable evidence of an iPod “halo effect” on PC sales, in our view.
— Richard Gardner, Smith Barney, who has a “hold” rating on the stock



Analysts React
Compiled by Tim Hanrahan
WSJ, January 13, 2005 10:57 a.m.

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  1. david bennett commented on Jan 14

    I think you need to take the “old days” a decade earlier. I stopped using a Mac in 1986. The reason was DOS systems started supported networking. It would be several years before the Mac did and Apletalk was inferior to ethenet. Aloso at that time GUI was very difficult to program, in many shops in addition to PC tools there was a migration of Cobol and other “data processing” professionals building programs specialized to various niches, along with greater ease in connecting to the old fashioned “big iron” which still underlies a lot of industry.

    Cut to Windows 3.1 in the early nineties. I thought the Mac “Dos emulator” which allowed the running of legacy programs gave them a chance, but it didn’t catch. So Windows caught hold.

    That being said:

    – Mac has alwys been more elegant than Windows, a better system with less problems. It’s now evolved into a Unix base which gives it more capacity for expansion.

    – While there still exists some specialization if you are doing intensive local work (and the Mac had places where it had the best set of programs,) people are increasingly pushing work onto server based systems. The basic tools most people need are certainly availible on the Mac, and conversion between the formats of various tools is pretty good.

    So logically there is no reason why many who need PC power (“thin clients” eg. “terminals” are an increasingly attractive option) shouldn’t shift to the Mac. Of course historically markets don’t always chose the better technology.

  2. Jon H commented on Jan 14

    I think part of the problem Apple has is that Mac OS has changed pretty radically since Mac OS’ earlier period of prominence in the late 80s/early 90s, and word hasn’t gotten out enough.

    Mac OS has changed considerably, and pretty quickly – so fast that many people are operating with a concept of Mac OS that is very much out-of-date. Criticisms that applied to Mac OS in the 80s and 90s don’t really apply to Mac OS X. A common one is that Mac OS is hard to network; this was true when it was AppleTalk-oriented, but now TCP/IP is the focus, and Windows networking is built in.

  3. California commented on Jan 15

    If you’re going to use Win95 as a comparison, you need to use the clunky, inscrutable, unreliable Mac OSs from the same era, not OSX.

    I work on both, and I’ll take Windows 9x any day over OS9 and its predecessors.

  4. Barry Ritholtz commented on Jan 15

    What was better than OS7? Nothing! To me, that remians the pinnacle of OS development on the Mac side.

    I cannot say what the best Windows OS is –but I think NT is the least bad (so far). I do not spend a lot of time on XP, but during the time I’ve played with it, its actually pretty good — in fact, rather Mac like!

  5. Walking? In Houston!? commented on Jan 15

    Microsoft and Apple

    Barry Ritholtz writes about the latest smart moves by Apple. I agree with Barry: 2004’s Microsoft security meltdown and Apple’s recent cool products make the Macintosh a choice worth considering again. I have been using Macs since 1984, and there’s…

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