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Water's wet; sky's blue; investors baulk at Apple launches.

So, another iLaunch, another chorus of "Meh", from investors. You could set your Apple Watch by the predictability of the markets when Apple does its annual thing. The market, it seems, is still waiting for that time machine. Or perhaps an iPad that doubles as a jet pack. Or an Apple Watch that sprouts sharks with laser beams.

Whatever it is that investors mouth off about while

screaming "Sell," down the phone (I wonder how many of them are using an

iPhone), Apple did what it was supposed to do with the iPhones: improve on the

last ones. Come on, these were S models; notches in the upgrade path rather

than milestones, so give Timmy & Co a break. Faster processors, double the

RAM, hardier base materials, a new OS with (ever-so-slightly) smarter Siri,

Force Touch, and so on, and so on.

The iPad Pro might be worth a longer conversation. To

capture more slate revenue, Apple has built something that is meant to appeal

to the productivity user. It is meant to be a substitute for a PC. This is no

intuitive leap. Apple states it outright when it claims the Pro outperforms 80%

of portable PCs and inviting a Microsoft executive on stage during the launch was

not exactly subtle.

Apple wants a big fat chunk of the enterprise market and

knows the Pro, with its optional extras of the plug-and-play Smart Keyboard and

the inventively named "Pencil", is the way to go about it. Cupertino has seen

the figures: the PC and tablet are locked in something of a stalemate of late.

Both are showing flat growth and analysts suspect PC shipments might start to "normalise"

in the second half of 2015. Apple has probably gambled that no millennial would

brook a conventional PC if their tablet could only do those day-to-day things

better: the Microsoft Word things; the CAD things; the desktop things.

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Investors' teeth-grinding may lie in consideration of the

fact that for Apple to take a sizeable share of what it's after, Windows 10

will need to fail. Windows, insufferable as it may be to some, has a solid

place in the enterprise. As a desktop system, it is easier and cheaper to

support because Windows support is not a niche talent. And the learning curve, expense

and administrative headache involved in rolling out Apple iPad Pros will be too

great to bear, as long as Windows 10 proves to be at least tolerable.

Apple TV is harder to gauge. Apple is looking to play in the

video-streaming space, but has also stepped up the focus on gaming with its

latest TV boxes, reportedly pushing up their price by beefing up the hardware

to handle richer gaming experiences.

So investors have taken a look at the field of products and

been, as usual, less than impressed. Apple's first iPhone had investors

frothing at the mouth. Stock closed up 8% at close of trading on launch day, according

to Bloomberg archive figures. But subsequent launches underwhelmed the market

and day-one trading hovered between 1% and 2% drops and, since the iPhone 5,

meagre 1% gains. The iPhone 6 showed gains and drops while the launch was still

in play: drops for the Watch, iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, but gains for the

announcement of Apple Pay, even though the after-launch reaction from analysts for

the devices was positive, and Apple enjoyed a record-breaking Q4 turnover.

After the launch of the iPhone 6S range and associated

products/services (Apple TV, iPad Pro and mini 4) the same financial shoulder-shrug

occurred. Reuters reported a 1.9% drop by close.

The problem is trust. Apple's story is frenetic and investors

have long memories. The company's early years were a patchwork of game-changers

and trend-setters (Apple I and II, the first Mac) followed by other, less

notable offerings. The iPod and OS X changed all that. And then came the

iPhone.

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After Steve Jobs death, many thought the company would spiral

downwards. The co-founder's return, after all, had heralded a new era and what

would the company do now? It relied on a mere handful of high-margin, premium

products released annually. If those products were not up to scratch,

shepherded by Jobs' infamous cantankerousness, then surely Apple would be

punished by a consumer market packed with competitors offering also-ran kit

that was considerably cheaper.

I don't know what goes through the heads of short-sellers,

but I can tell you this: Apple has more strings to its bow than just devices.

It continues to make money from its very-healthy-thank-you-very-much App Store and

the wearables market is just getting started, so any fears about the Apple

Watch should be shelved until the third iteration of that device tanks.

In the meantime, if you want to worry about something,

consider this: Apple is in a recruitment war with Google and others to recruit

machine-learning PhDs. This is because everyone is trying to cobble together

the truly smart smart-device. Once that sentient handset emerges, its vendor

will be drowning in patents and first-to-market revenue.

But Apple (and this is where the worry arises, is at a disadvantage).

Its internal privacy policies, which I hold to be highly laudable, currently prevent

it from using its data the way info-gobbler Google does. Machine learning needs

a lot of processing juice and that comes from servers, which Google has and is

not afraid to use. In Apple World, it is the devices where all the Smart gets

done. Only by processing the copious amounts of iCloud data at its fingertips,

can Apple hope to emulate the kind of info-crunching required to build

intelligent semantic models. And if it breaks from its traditions in order to

do so, it will have to brave the torrents of rebukes from huffy iFans.

So there, something to worry about. But since none of that

was mentioned yesterday, we can only assume that the markets grumbled because

investors were not happy with the products they saw. I can only give my own

shrug and point to Apple's recent past. The real stock price will be decided

when the holiday quarter has come and gone.

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Date:Sep 10, 2015
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