My responses to questions from Juliette Garside of The Guardian newspaper:
Q: Will noise from Icahn distract the Cook from focussing on product?
A: Investors may think that they can influence management but they do so only when companies are in distress. It’s only then that shareholders can affect some change with their votes as they have a common purpose. The voice of investors carries little weight or distraction when a company is successful. At first glance it seems that Icahn thinks he can unlock value in Apple by getting management to accelerate share buybacks. That’s a modest goal and not one which needs to distract managers.
Q: What will do most for the share price – a buyback or a blockbuster new device?
A: Neither. What will do most for the share price is a change in the perception that Apple is not going to survive as a going concern. At this point of time, as at all other points of time in the past, no activity by Apple has been seen as sufficient for its survival. Apple has always been priced as a company that is in a perpetual state of free-fall. It’s a consequence of being dependent on breakthrough products for its survival. No matter how many breakthroughs it makes, the assumption is (and has always been) that there will never be another. When Apple was the Apple II company, its end was imminent because the Apple II had an easily foreseen demise. When Apple was a Mac company its end was imminent because the Mac was predictably going to decline. Repeat for iPod, iPhone and iPad. It’s a wonder that the company is worth anything at all.