When you shake hands with several hundred people and you are not a politician, what do you think people want?
I can tell you the answer: Apple AAPL . During my book-signing event last night in Manhattan, I stopped counting after 20 people asked me if they were OK in Apple. Some bought the stock lower. Some bought it higher. But they are all scared to death about it.
The funny thing is that Apple's pretty much the opposite of "scary" these days. It is a slow-growing, low-multiple value stock of a company that has oodles of cash and new products that may or may not move the needle as surely as the new Tide pods might move Procter & Gamble PG .
Now, I would say about half of the people who are in the stock are simply frightened that it might go down from here. The other half are wondering and agitated about when it will start flying higher again.
By its nature I think this sampling of folks says it's somewhere in between. That's right: I don't think Apple is going down much, but I don't think it will run away either.
When I ask people why they own it, invariably they say they like the product. That's terrific for the company, but not necessarily great for the stock. You want to own stock of a company that makes something only a few people own, and which could attract more customers in the future. It is not a positive that everyone who asked about Apple was taking a picture of me with an iPhone. You need more people taking a picture of me with a Nokia NOK or a Samsung, whispering that they hear that Apple's got something new in the pipe that could be tremendous.
But, with Apple products, there's a high degree of saturation out there.
Here's something else I thought was interesting. No one said they owned Twitter TWTR or Facebook FB or Google GOOG , the three stocks that I thought would have been more representative of a crowd at a Barnes & Noble BKS in Union Square, Manhattan. They are not thinking about social, mobile, cloud computing or connectivity -- don't forget there are a trillion sensors out there that can all be connected.
In the end, the enemies of Apple shareholders are other Apple shareholders. You need people who aren't concerned and who are not looking for a reacceleration. You need confident shareholders who like it for what it is -- a slower-growing tech company that throws off a lot of cash.
Anything more than that, and I fear you will be disappointed.