2013-04-22

Co.Labs

Who Profits From Professional Apple Hating?

This is not about Apple's imminent death. It's about the cottage industry of haters profiting from negative rumors—and why developers should be angry as their livelihoods get trashed in public.



For every tech-fanboy, there is an equal and opposite tech-hateboy—Microsoft-haters, Samsung-haters, Google-haters, and of course, Apple-haters. The constant tug-of-war between such forces tends toward equilibrium, or at least it has until now. Apple-hating has become a full-time job where financial professionals stand to make millions every time someone disparages the company or its products.

As the colossus of worldwide consumer tech, the gravitational force that all must cling to and follow, you wouldn't think gaming Apple stock was so easy. Standard measures don't apply, especially as Apple spins off entire new universes of tech that fill Apple's coffers ever fuller with goodwill and cash. How can mere mortals judge the financial health and future prospects of such an entity? It's a simple matter of reductivism—create short-term worry over Apple's falling stock price.

Apple's stock has declined from $705 to the low $390s in just over seven months—that's 40%. This decline has most people in the media screaming, "Apple is dead! Abandon ship while you can!" And why not? It's good for page-view, and who doesn't enjoy a little schadenfreude?

But there are hidden actors at work here. Money managers looking for profits and media companies desperate for viewers/readers, like to feature every instance of Apple's inevitable doom. Throw in a tendency to ignore fact checking, and you've got a genuine media sideshow. Here's a typical, if particularly blatant example of media hysteria sans facts from John Moltz's blog, It's a Very Nice Web Site.:

Spot the error

Erik Sherman writing for CBS about the “Apple meltdown” (via Sat Tara Khalsa):

"Anonymous supply chain sources say that iPad mini unit sales could drop 20 percent to 30 percent this quarter, compared with the same period last year."

(Emphasis mine.) Apple’s apparently doing so badly that returns of the iPad mini will be so high next quarter that they’ll drive sales into negative numbers. Which is the only way they could sell fewer than zero. That pretty much sums up the current state of reporting on Apple right there, doesn’t it?

Shoddy reporting is one thing, but here's a more serious example. This one comes from Philip Elmer-DeWitt at Fortune. He's talking about the rumors in recent days that—wait for it—Tim Cook is being handed his hat by Apple. Here's what Elmer-DeWitt says:

The last time we wrote about Doug Kass--a small hedge fund manager with a large presence on CNBC--it was to document a nifty piece of stock manipulation played out on his Twitter feed in February, the day before Apple's annual shareholder meeting.

Apple's (AAPL) share price was down and Kass was long on the stock. He tweeted a rumor that the company was about to announce a split, the stock went up, he sold his shares at a profit, he tweeted that the rumor was baseless and then spent the rest of the day hurling insults at his critics.

Well, Kass is at it again. On Sunday, citing the same "Gnome" that was the source for his stock split story, he tweeted: @DougKass: From my Gnome, high above the Alps - "Is Apple's Tim Cook... Cooked?

Many assume people only make money on a stock if that stock goes up and they sell. But in reality, people can make millions shorting a stock as valuable as Apple's. So, as Elmer-DeWitt points out, professional Apple-haters like Kass have a lot to gain. And who else is in that group? Many, Elmer-DeWitt finds:

  • We've got the tweet from Doug Kass, whose main Apple-related claim to fame was to publish his "Bear Case for Apple" the day before the stock began a nosedive that lopped nearly $300 billion off the market cap of the world's most valuable company.
  • We've got "The impossible task of fixing Apple" by Rob Enderle, a consultant for Dell (DELL), Microsoft (MSFT), Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) and others, who has made a career of bad-mouthing Apple in print and on TV. (For background on Enderle, you can start with John Gruber's 2003 Putting the 'anal' in 'analyst'.)
  • We've got "Sunday's Is Apple Looking For A Replacement For CEO Cook?" in Forbes.com, the online arm of a once-respected business publication whose experiment in what it calls "incentive-based, entrepreneurial journalism" has led to what Macworld calls "a relentless clown show of anti-Apple contributors."

Usually financial news of a company and a company's stock price should be of little concern to developers. But when there is so much disinformation (but let's call them "rumors" to be nice) spreading about a company's impeding demise—a company that's paid $1 billion dollars to developers in just one month—developers need to start getting angry, because this effects their livelihoods.

After all, if consumers believe a healthy company is one step from death's door, why would they buy its products and, ultimately, your apps?


Want to read more about the controversy around Apple's rep? Read Bad Apple: What's Happening To Steve's Company?


[Apple Image: Efired via Shutterstock]