Like many other investors, yesterday I watched Apple (AAPL) CEO Tim Cook take the stage, sharing with more than a few other people to announce a bevy of new products. I have to admit that I was rather surprised to see Cook skip what's become a tradition of wowing the audience with Apple-flavored and -favored stats. Instead, Cook and crew jumped right into it. (Apple is part of TheStreet's Action Alerts PLUS portfolio.)
Things started off with the Apple Watch, and I have to be honest: I still want-to-want one, but I don't feel compelled to buy one because I'm not sure I need one. In talking with folks who have them, they praise the ability to pay with their wrist and see messages, but more than a few quickly shoehorned in that "it was a gift." Apple did announce more fashion-related items, bands and colors, but in my view that doesn't really move the needle like the way the new iPad Pro did. The bottom line on the watch is, at least from my perspective, there is much more to go and companies like FitBit (FIT) and others are way ahead of them, much the way Amazon's (AMZN) Kindle hardware continues to have a place. (Amazon is part of TheStreet's Growth Seeker portfolio.)
I've tried several times to use the iPad in place of my MacBook Air, and I've found that so far it's been relegated to the realm of pinch-hitting. Editing documents and toggling back and forth between apps was more than cumbersome, but with the iPad Pro it looks like we now have a serious productivity tool. We'll get our first look at the split-screen capability on Tuesday when Apple releases iOS 9, but it's the combination of those capabilities with the newly announced Apple Pencil that could make the real difference, along with its new keyboard. I can already see bloggers predicting the demise, if not rough road ahead, for Microsoft's (MSFT) Surface as well as notebook computers from Hewlett Packard (HPQ), Dell and others. Let's remember that outside the Xbox, hardware is a relatively small contributor to Microsoft, which has increasingly become an enterprise software play.
You have to applaud Apple's "you don't really need them, but you might really want them" approach to the Apple Pencil and new keyboard, which also helps foster an upgrade to the iPad Pro. Overnight we've already started to hear about competing keyboards for the iPad Pro from Logitech (LOGI), and I suspect it's just the beginning. Odds are Zagg (ZAGG) won't be too far behind. Anyone who gets an iPad Pro is going to want to protect it, which means cases, screen protectors and more.
While some may focus on the new iPhone models -- I don't see big reason to upgrade unless one's two-year contract with AT&T (T) or Verizon (VZ) is expiring soon -- to me the biggest change was the Apple TV. Overall, it was a nice overhaul, and I agree with Apple's comments about the shift in watching TV from broadcast to apps, which is why the Thematic Growth Portfolio is long Netflix (NFLX), but it's the attack on gaming and the price point that matter. At $149, it's well below the $250 or so sticker price of Microsoft's current Xbox. Granted, the initial slug of games will be found wanting relative to Xbox and even Sony's (SNE) PlayStation, but we know Apple will continue to pack more memory and improve the chip speed in the device over time. Who knows, perhaps now that Apple has "figured out" Apple TV, the product will be on the annual model upgrade path that we've seen with iPhone and iPad. (AT&T is part of TheStreet's Dividend Stock Advisor portfolio.)
Does all of this make Apple shares attractive at current levels? With new products all hitting in time for the holiday season, it once again looks like a very Apple-y Christmas.