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Apple’s Secrecy Is Killing the Stock


Apple (AAPL) has spent the last 20 years "unveiling" new devices at cutesy, invitation-only mystery events. Where once such showcases dazzled, they have now become as tired as iTunes or the form factor of the iPhone. The Apple of old had both substance and sizzle. Today, Apple is just an old company with great cash flow.

Gene Munster, senior analyst at Piper Jaffray, is a longtime Apple bull who cut his price target for the stock yesterday. He now sees the shares capped at $688, down from his prior top end of $788 and well below the $910 forecast of a year ago. In the attached clip Munster says Apple bulls who are looking for a more predictable product release cycle or insight into where the company's muted R&D spending is going better get used to some disappointment.

Secret labs and razzle-dazzle are in Apple's DNA. Munster says Apple is "not going to be like Google (GOOG) or Samsung when they tell you in advance that a product is coming... in Apple's case we'll probably get an invitation a week before." That puts shareholders in the position of a lovelorn Charlie Brown, rushing to their inboxes everyday hoping the Little Red Hair girl has sent them a Valentine.

As tapped in as he is to the company, Munster is still forced to check in with component makers and supply chain companies to come up with theories as to what's really going on at Apple's HQ. From those checks, Munster says there's a "high probability" of an iPhone 5S sometime this summer. There's also likely to be a sub-$400 iPhone to address the low end of the market. Such a product would most likely hurt margins, but it's anyone's guess as to how much or when such a phone would come into the marketplace.

Other possible innovations include a digital wallet — which would compete with established offerings from retailers as well as dozens of digital wallet start-ups or some sort of digital watch — or maybe a television. Who knows? Certainly not the Street or analysts, and perhaps not even Apple itself.

There's nothing as sad as aging hipsters. At this point there is little reason other than hope to believe Apple has anything up its sleeve in regard to creating the next big thing. Hope isn't the only four-letter word used by Apple shareholders lately. There are also dozens of vulgarities and the most common of expressions used by former devotees since shares hit all-time highs last September: "Sell."