Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) made a statement for its vitality and relevance when it announced on Sept. 23 that it had just sold, in the first three days of sales, a breathtaking 9 million units of its newest line of iPhones.

It seemed like the good old days, when Steve Jobs ran the company and every product rollout contained the glitz and glamour of a gala Hollywood opening. Apple said its quarterly sales and profit margin would come in at the high end of its prior projection. Last July, Apple forecasted revenue between $34 billion and $37 billion for its fiscal fourth quarter and gross margin between 36% and 37%. As the topper, Apple’s shares climbed $23.23, or 5%, on Monday and closed at $490.64 on the Nasdaq.

But there were clouds on the horizon, and current and prospective Apple shareholders should be aware of them. 

Yes, those sales of iPhones represented a terrific accomplishment. But once again, the Apple of today could be accused of living off the scraps of Steve Jobs’ record of innovation in the iPhone, iPad, iPod and Mac. Since Jobs died on Oct. 5, 2011, the world has been waiting breathlessly to see the introduction of a new, equally dynamic and innovative product from the “i” folks.

Under Tim Cook, Jobs’ successor, Apple has continued to usher in various versions of previous hit products, such as what we saw on that September weekend. What about the bubbling speculation about Apple’s Next Big Product?

Where are the iWearables? With its Google Glass release, Google (Nasdaq:GOOG) has done what Jobs was famous for: Devise a product that in turn creates a big buzz in the media and, by extension, the marketplace. Google Glass, carrying an aura of status, has accomplished exactly what Jobs was able to pull off again and again: Persuading consumers that they must own a product they don't really need. Samsung has also shown it can market popular, buzzworthy smartphones.

Asked whether Apple has slowed its pace of innovation under Cook, Wharton School Professor Peter Fader said: "I don't think anyone would deny that. But it's not to say Apple is a laggard under Cook. It's just that we aren't seeing the same level of 'wow' innovation under Cook as with Jobs. Apple is doing the technical product tweaks as well as anyone."

Why does Fader believe this is the case?  

"There are several obvious answers out there," Fader said. "The markets that Apple operates in have gotten much more crowded, and they're operating now against some very strong competitors. Early on, there was a feeling that Apple could do anything it wanted partly because it had such a large network of passionate, loyal users.

"Another factor is the risk-seeking atmosphere now, lots of grandmas and grandpas are Apple customers, too, and they wouldn't be the first to buy the coolest, newest products, such as a new iPhone. Apple has to be more cautious because it doesn't want to alienate that segment of its audience."

Apple Chief Executive Officer Cook shrugged off the carping and was in a triumphant mood the Monday following its sales announcement when he tweeted: “Thanks to all our amazing customers for the fantastic weekend.”

Meanwhile, followers of Apple watch and wait for progress on the dynamic new-products front. They collectively ask: Can Apple still put the “I” in innovation?

Related Articles
  1. Investing

    How to Ballast a Portfolio with Bonds

    If January and early February performance is any guide, there’s a new normal in financial markets today: Heightened volatility.
  2. Stock Analysis

    Performance Review: Emerging Markets Equities in 2015

    Find out why emerging markets struggled in 2015 and why a half-decade long trend of poor returns is proving optimistic growth investors wrong.
  3. Investing News

    Today's Sell-off: Are We in a Margin Liquidation?

    If we're in market liquidation, is it good news or bad news? That party depends on your timeframe.
  4. Investing News

    Is It Time To Sell Technology Stocks? (LNKD, AAPL)

    Technology stocks have taken a drubbing in recent days. Is it time to sell them?
  5. Investing News

    Bank Stocks: Time to Buy or Avoid? (WFC, JPM, C)

    Bank stocks have been pounded. Is this the right time to buy or should they be avoided?
  6. Stock Analysis

    Why the Bullish Are Turning Bearish

    Banks are reducing their targets for the S&P 500 for 2016. Here's why.
  7. Investing

    Does BlackBerry Have What It Takes To Succeed? (BBRY)

    The last several years have been tough for BlackBerry shareholders. With the company in the midst of an attempted turnaround, we examine their progress.
  8. Stock Analysis

    How to Find Quality Stocks Amid the Wreckage

    Finding companies with good earnings and hitting on all cylinders in this environment, although possible, is not easy.
  9. Investing News

    What You Can Learn from Carl Icahn's Mistakes

    Carl Icahn has been a stellar performer in the investment world for decades, but following his lead these days could be dangerous.
  10. Investing

    5 Up and Coming Social Media Startups

    Although the days of Facebook's dominance aren't close to being over, here are some new creative platforms gaining traction on the worldwide web.
RELATED FAQS
  1. How does Tim Cook's vision for Apple differ from that of the late Steve Jobs? (AAPL)

    Before his death in 2011, billionaire tycoon Steve Jobs handed over control of Apple to Tim Cook, then the company's Chief ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. Is Apple Pay safe and free?

    Apple Pay is a mobile payment system created by Apple to reduce the number of times shoppers and buyers have to pay for goods ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. How do dividends affect retained earnings?

    When a company issues a cash dividend to its shareholders, the retained earnings listed on the balance sheet are reduced ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. What is the difference between called-up share capital and paid-up share capital?

    The difference between called-up share capital and paid-up share capital is investors have already paid in full for paid-up ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. Why would a corporation issue convertible bonds?

    A convertible bond represents a hybrid security that has bond and equity features; this type of bond allows the conversion ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. How does additional paid in capital affect retained earnings?

    Both additional paid-in capital and retained earnings are entries under the shareholders' equity section of a company's balance ... Read Full Answer >>
COMPANIES IN THIS ARTICLE
Trading Center