Front page of the WSJ tells us that a deal between Comcast (CMCSA, quote) and Apple (AAPL, quote) may be near where Apple gets TV like quality streaming of the "final mile" from Comcast into the living room to an Apple set top box.
It is at least Part 3 for me as I was an Apple convert from an investment perspective far in advance of my embracing the hardware (and software) due to iTunes.
I bought Apple stock around $60 in 2006 (and sold it around $350 in 2011) because I thought what the company was doing in terms of delivering music was changing the world. At least this was my world as a music enthusiast who was suddenly finding it harder and harder to buy CDs in stores, and whose wife was (and is) a record industry lawyer.
Apple changed the way we bought and listened to music. The iPod was just an after thought...oh, and a piece of hardware who's growth trajectory worried analysts. We welcomed the iPhone and iPad and now we are hooked. Welcome Apple TV and we have the next vehicle from which Apple will control our consumption of all media. At least if we are streaming it.
The problem with this philosophy is that it doesn’t incorporate Apple's reality of being a $480Bn company and the largest in the world. That’s right, largest COMPANY in the world. So how do you move the needle? Apple TV will not move the needle now.
...But China might. Or at least the global growth into the Apple ecosystem is my view of why Apple has room to run, but I’m not expecting a pop to $700 overnight. Having the iPhone now on the China Mobile 4G platform that is finally extending to over 300 cities in China by '14 means more players into the China software and services model.
Having China Mobile (and other global internet providers) bringing a higher quality last mile to their consumers is something Apple needs and is slowly getting, even in EM. But Apple is not a broken company, and thus the stagnation in the stock price should not be confused with a company that is not well run and pumping out cash like no company has ever done.
Apple derives only 9% of its revenue from iTunes/Software/Services and gets only 21% of its revenue from Asia Pacific (ex-Japan). This leaves massive upside for the company in Emerging and in services.
In the short run, the market is focused on Apple's gross margin and some recovery if not at least holding the line. Watch China mobile (CHL, quote) distribution. Know that the smartphone market in EM is a lower end ASP, and this is where the entire smartphone world is going.
In my view, if Apple can play in this end of the pool (shallow end?) they can take a greater share in the lower margin handsets but gain much more from the higher end services/software part of the model, a part of the model that is understated at best right now.