TV-PGOctober 12, 1999: It's almost time for Apple's Q4 financial results-- so what'll happen to the stock price? Meanwhile, Dell continues to emulate Apple in every way it can, and rumors of Best Buy selling Macs again seem unlikely in the face of the store's corporate decision to stop selling Mac software...
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The Logic Escapes Us (10/12/99)

It never fails. If we're not mistaken, for the past seven consecutive profitable quarters, Apple has announced end-of-quarter results that exceeded Wall Street's expectations-- prompting an immediate and inexplicable reduction in Apple's stock price. We're not even going to try to understand just what the heck is going on in the minds of investors when that happens; we've just accepted the fact that when Apple's doing better than everyone thought, AAPL loses a few points. We're guessing it's some kind of karmic alignment/cosmic balance thing, but that's as far as we plan to take that analysis.

This quarter's different, though. Weeks ago, Apple issued the infamous earnings warning which stated that Q4 profits would be significantly lower than the analysts had originally expected, mostly because, and we quote, "Motorola is even slower than the Windows 2000 development team on quaaludes." (Note: okay, that may not be an actual Steve Jobs quote. In fact, we suspect that Steve's exact words on the subject probably aren't even remotely fit for a family-oriented show like this one.) That warning had the expected effect: it sent Apple's all-time-high stock price of over 80 crashing down to the high 50s. See, we get that. That makes sense. Company doesn't do so well, company's stock loses value. We're on board with that.

But now, on the eve of Apple's final Q4 earnings announcement (you did enter the Beat The Analysts contest, didn't you? If it's before 2 PM EDT on Wednesday, there's still time! Hurry!), we can't help but notice that Apple's stock has been rising again. On Tuesday it peaked at over 69, before finally closing at nearly 68. A Wired article attributes this trend to investor confidence in Apple next quarter, which is all well and good, but we're more concerned with the "Apple beats Street, stock price plummets" syndrome. So here's what we're wondering: if Apple's actual results are lower even than the $75 to $85 million they predicted in their own earnings warning-- or, say, lower than the revised analyst consensus of 45 cents per share-- will their stock go up? We ask purely in the interest of science, of course. Guess we'll wait and see...

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Follow The Leader (10/12/99)

Another day, another instance of Dell copying Apple. Have you been keeping a running tally? Let's see, there's the brightly-colored easy-Internet PC for "cool" consumers coming out soon. Then there's the consumer-targeted laptop available in two colors. And don't forget the wireless networking option that showed up for Dell portables after Apple's AirPort grabbed all the headlines. For someone who once made such catty public comments about shutting Apple down and giving the money back to the stockholders, Michael Dell sure is flying his company a lot like the Cupertino mothership.

So what's the latest step in Mike Dell's copycat routine? Investments in flat-panel manufacturers. According to a CNET article, Dell and Samsung have closed a deal valued at $8.5 billion; Dell is investing $200 million in the Korean company to ensure that they get a "stable supply of flat-panel displays" for the next five years. If this whole scenario sounds just a wee bit familiar, don't worry-- it's not your synapses misfiring. Well, maybe it is, but more than likely you're just remembering back to last July, when Apple announced their own investment in Samsung, intended to keep Apple "on the cutting edge of flat panel display technology" and stocked with "an adequate supply of TFT-LCD displays." It only took Dell two and a half months to follow suit.

Granted, what Dell lacks in originality is made up in scale; Dell's $200 million investment eclipses Apple's $100 million one. And that's something we can admire about Mike Dell: you just have to respect somebody who blows a couple hundred million bucks so he can truthfully brag about how his "package" is twice as big as Steve Jobs'. (Oh, let's not go there...) So what's next on Dell's list of action items? How about fanless Pentium-based systems? Oh, how we love the smell of melted plastic in the morning...

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Nightmare Scenarios (10/12/99)

You've heard the rumors that Best Buy might be re-entering the Macintosh world, right? Yes, you heard us correctly. And yes, this is the same Best Buy that was the first chain out the door when Steve Jobs started eliminating ineffective national retailers from the sales list a couple of years ago. It's also the same Best Buy that returned to sell the iMac-- only to 1) fail miserably due to sales incompetence, 2) panic and sell them at prices well below authorized levels, and 3) finally bail from the platform again because the concept of stocking five different colors made them squeamish. And yet, we're hearing that they may soon be back on the Mac wagon.

So far there have been two distinct versions of this rumor floating into our inbox. The first states that Apple's decision to sell the iMac base model only in Blueberry is a concession to Best Buy's single-color requirement, and that only the $999 iMac will make it onto Best Buy's shelves. We can sort of buy that. But the second variant is even less believable and contends that Best Buy will soon sell the entire Macintosh line-- Power Macs, Powerbooks, iBooks, and iMacs. We're not ruling out the possibility, but the very idea seems more like the premise for a Silicon Valley horror flick than an actual business plan. C'mon, Best Buy had trouble selling iMacs. We're talking about the hottest computer out there, people. If they couldn't sell iMacs, how are they going to push Powerbooks? If it had an Apple logo on it, the average Best Buy salesperson couldn't sell a glass of water to a man whose crotch was on fire.

And speaking of water, iMac2Day throws cold water on both rumors with its reader report that Best Buy has eliminated all Mac-only software from all stores. This is apparently a high-up corporate decision, folks, confirmed via a phone call to Best Buy's headquarters-- if it's not Windows or hybrid, it's not making it onto Best Buy's shelves. Now that sounds like the Best Buy we know-- and it doesn't sound like a company that's getting ready to start selling Macs again. Then again, if we had to pick a company stupid enough to try to sell iMacs without carrying any Mac software, Best Buy would be at the top of our very short list.

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