Is it finally safe to say that no one, not even the most unrepentant and pig-headed Apple-bashing Wintel pundit, would still consider Apple "beleaguered"? There's a master showman at the helm, an all-star line-up of chart-topping products, analyst upgrades galore, a stock price constantly hitting new all-time highs (AAPL closed at 115 last Friday!), and more-- so we'd like to think that no one's stubborn enough to say Apple's still beleaguered. And that's important, because we need that word back so we can stick it in front of other companies, like Compaq.
But it's not just Compaq feeling the hurt these days-- some Apple allies are pretty beleaguered, too. For example, take CompUSA stores. Please. Take them far, far away and replace them with something at which the lighting is better, the selection doesn't suck, the sales help is neither clueless nor sullen, and Apple products are available, well-priced, competently demonstrated, and cheerily sold. (We suppose we should throw in the standard disclaimer here: "Note that not all CompUSA stores are anathema to Mac users, and that some of them actually have courteous, helpful, and Mac-savvy staff available to cater to your every Apple-related whim.") And now that Apple's finally shed its beleaguered status once and for all, it's tough to deny that Apple's nationwide computer superstore retail partner has caught whatever Apple had. Just take a look at CompUSA's stock performance for the grim picture: down 84% over the past two years. Ouch. Yup, that's "beleaguered" all right.
But whereas Apple fought tooth and nail to stay afloat and become profitable again, CompUSA appears to be committing suicide instead. According to a Fortune article, the company is throwing its weight behind its own e-commerce site, Cozone.com-- a wholly-owned but independently-acting subsidiary that actually competes against the parent company (and is winning). It seems that CompUSA may actually plan to crash and burn, leaving Cozone to rise from its ashes. It's a neat strategy, maybe, but what does it mean for Apple? Sure, Cozone sells iMacs, but there are plenty of e-commerce sites that do that-- including Apple's own. CompUSA and the Apple store-within-a-store represented the Mac's major national retail presence, and if that goes, all that's left is the iGoods at Sears. (Excuse us while we shudder and suppress our gag reflex.) Here's hoping that Apple has a plan.