Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) shares hit an all-time high yesterday as they rose to $209.35 up 3.5%. Most of the increase way due to rumors that the company will finally launch its tablet PC at a product and software developer show late next month. Securities analysts and the press are guessing that the product, which will look like a huge iPod and sell for $500 to $1,000, will be in stores by late in the first quarter.
There is a chance that the tablet PC is no more than a rumor. There is also a chance that Apple’s sales during the holiday season where not up to the level of the highest expectations. Apple’s shares are up over 15% in the last three months which makes them particularly vulnerable to a correction on even the most modest bad news.
Some of that modest bad news may not be far off. The surge in iPhone sales has been to a large extent been helped by the huge and diverse number of downloads available at the Apple App store. These products make the iPhone substantially more useful to many iPhone owners and have helped Apple pick up sales in the critical business and enterprise markets. The App store has over 100,000 products and many analysts believe that it will never be challenged in terms of the size and breadth of its offerings. That assumption may have been true until recently. Google’s (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android is now being loaded on more and more handsets. Google has encouraged software developers to build applications for Android and it now has 20,000. The number is growing quickly . Android has a real chance of challenging the Apple App store.
Expectations for sales of the iPhone, iPod, and Mac during the holiday season are high. The rocky economy and improved Android-based handsets sales will challenge the iPhone. PCs sales, especially netbooks, could cut into Mac growth.
Apple’s advantages in some of its key market may be eroding, ever so slightly.
Buy the rumor, sell the news. Apple’s share could be hit in the first quarter of 2010.
Douglas A. McIntyre