Rumors persist, most recently reported by Bloomberg, that Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) will launch a new super-thin line of laptops. The latest version of the MacBook will be powered by Intel (NASDAQ: INTC) chips, a nice coup for a company that has been edged out of mobile devices. The MacBook also will have flash memory to cut start-up time. Apple has steamrolled its competition in the smartphone and tablet PC business. It means to press into the PC business as well. Apple still has a relatively small portion of the PC market compared to Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ) and Dell (NASDAQ: DELL), although its share is high among expensive machines. Apple’s Mac sales continue to grow at an unexpectedly good rate. The market is not growing in the U.S., so Apple’s new product makes the prospects of its larger rivals dimmer.
CalPERS vs. Jamie Dimon
The California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS) remarked that it will pressure the JP Morgan (NYSE: JPM) board to split the CEO and chairman roles to water down the power of long-time leader Jamie Dimon. Under most circumstances, the proposal would be ludicrous. But JP Morgan just admitted that it lost $2 billion on a series of trading positions. Top management at the investment unit already has been forced out. No one has shown conclusively that Dimon knew the details of the risks or the trades themselves. There are concerns that he did push his traders to improve results, which could have fostered a dangerous attitude toward risky positions. CalPERS does not have the votes to win the issue, but it can further embarrass Dimon and his board.
The price of Facebook’s IPO is likely to fall between $34 and $38. That is above the previous forecast of $28 to $35. Of course, this means that demand for shares has risen sharply in the past few days. This is despite evidence that Facebook’s revenue growth has slowed and its mobile sales are almost nonexistent. The lure of the offering remains Facebook’s 900 million users. Investors believe that there must be some way to turn that population into tens of billions in high-margin revenue. Facebook still may be able to pick the lock of display advertising, which it has been unable to sell at high prices. Whether it can win a race to smartphones against other social networks, like Twitter, and search companies like Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) is less likely. Only so many angels can sit on the head of the mobile device pin.
Wireless Customer Satisfaction
Customer satisfaction with wireless subscriber companies steadied last quarter, according to the widely followed American Customer Satisfaction Index. On a 100-point scale, AT&T (NYSE: T) and T-Mobile each posted a 69. Verizon’s (NYSE: VZ) wireless division has a score of 70, and Sprint-Nextel (NYSE: S) came in first at 71. The news is good for Sprint, which has been criticized for poor customer service in the past. It probably will not keep the company from bleeding subscribers. AT&T and Verizon Wireless continue to take customers in a U.S. market that is not growing. What is notable about the figures is that 70 is a low score. Even though the four companies have similar levels of satisfaction, it is at a poor level.
Douglas A. McIntyre