Where Were You When Tim Cook Sold Apple's Soul?

Tickers in this article: AAPL RIMM

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- I spent a good chunk of 2011 chiding Research in Motion for its incompetence. During that time, a large number of RIMM bulls became over-the-top angry with me. The harder and faster the stock fell, the more their dislike, bordering on hate in some cases, intensified.

I was never able to figure out why they were mad at me. I did not run their favorite company into the ground. It was not my fault that RIM's stock cratered from the triple digits into the teens. I did not repeatedly botch guidance. I did not go on conference calls to reassure analysts and investors that everything was just fine when it was clear everything was not. I did not stubbornly drag my feet to make management changes and then announce one of the most uninspiring moves in corporate history. Heck, I didn't even fail to bring an NHL franchise to Southern Ontario.

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Yet, RIMM permabulls attacked me as if I was responsible. Unbelievably, they defended the company's former co-CEOs James Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis.

I argued that RIMM bulls should have directed all of this anger and energy at the company, not some guy who called the play-by-play of the demise from his posh perch in Southern California. I contended that all Canadians should demand Parliament open an inquiry into how Balsillie and his team handled issues such as guidance. I urged the nation my father was born in -- God's Country, Canada -- to save Potash from foreign ownership and to request that RIM, the national disgrace, pick up and leave.

If anything, RIMM bulls should have been on my side. They should have invited me to Waterloo for all types of protests, ranging from sit-ins to hunger strikes to petition drives. Instead, they misdirected their anger and got in the way of a falling knife.

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I would never do something as dumb as compare Apple to RIM. As companies, there's simply no comparison. Similarities do exist, however, between the conduct of RIMM bulls -- some of which, shockingly, continues to this day -- and the behaviors of AAPL bulls.

Like RIMM longs, considerable factions of AAPL bulls appear to be living in denial. In the process, they're misdirecting their anger, sending scorn and contempt to me and other people who dare to even wax critical or, worse yet, long-term bearish AAPL. Just look at the comment sections of articles I have written on TheStreet and elsewhere. Folks are taking shots at me on Twitter. It's all very theatrical. It would be funny if it was not so pathetic and misguided.

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I get uneasy associating Steve Jobs's death with Apple's eventual swoon from greatness to somewhere between above average and good. My lack of ease has nothing to do with Apple; instead, out of respect for Jobs, his family and his close friends, I hate to chalk a man's life up to his business accomplishments, no matter how amazing they are.

For better or worse, you have no choice. When you talk about Apple, particularly in forward-looking fashion, you really cannot have the conversation without placing considerable, even majority, focus on Jobs.

While some bulls will read this and recent articles and think otherwise, I love Apple. I own Apple products. I have lived in awe of how the company changed the world. I love Steve Jobs's Apple. And Tim Cook is killing the Apple Steve Jobs created.

I can say that I was alive when the greatest American company to ever exist was at the top of its game. Sadly, I will not be able to say that I watched a dynasty reign supreme for a considerable period of time. Apple will never become the corporate equivalent of the Montreal Canadiens throughout the 1970s and the New York Islanders and Edmonton Oilers in the 1980s. They'll stop just short.

And they'll stop just short because Tim Cook, even if he does not know he's doing it, is selling Apple's soul.

Of course, Cook is not doing it on purpose, but he's setting up some yet-to-be determined date in history when, on an annual basis, people around the globe will ask, "Where were you the day Apple lost its groove?"

I'm not sure how it will all shake out, but, given the pacing of Cook's missteps -- some of which have yet to even happen -- we might be looking at a period of time rather than a day when Apple simply stopped embodying the spirit of the times.

From the moment Tim Cook took over, he reshaped Apple in his own name. He took steps that will render the company normal, if it is not already. He should have done everything he possibly could have to keep Apple weird.

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Instead, Cook caved to shareholder pressure and issued both a dividend and buyback. And now, it looks like there's a real possibility he'll not only produce a mini-iPad, but an answer to the ultrabook in the form of a less expensive MacBook Air.

Too many AAPL bulls miss the point here. It's not about arguing the merits of returning capital to shareholders or doing a particular product line versus not doing one. It so much more complex than that. It's about the erosion of the very "thing" that deserves so much of the credit for Apple's success. It's that thing called culture.

Each time Cook makes a move that is normal, a move that is little more than a reaction to what somebody else wants or other companies are doing, he erodes the abnormal, downright quirky and 100% innovative attitude and persona that made Apple great. He takes on characteristics of and makes the types of moves that define Apple's historically inferior competition. He allows Apple to become its own inferior competition.

Everybody wants a dividend. Cook pays one. A seven-inch tablet sells well. Cook thinks seriously about making one. The ultrabook looks like it could be a real challenge. Cook prepares an answer.

If you love Apple as much as I do, you should not be angry at me for pointing this out. You should be angry at Tim Cook for not doing everything he could do to succeed at the next to impossible task of replacing Steve Jobs.

Unfortunately, Jobs's impact was so unique and profound, there might not be anything anybody could possibly do to stop Apple from morphing into a mere mortal.

As admirers of the company, however, you can assess your anger and send it in the proper direction. As investors in AAPL stock, you can recognize the more than obvious headwinds on the horizon, take some profits, keep an eye on your remaining position and prepare to execute Plan B, assuming you have one.

Tickers in this article: AAPL RIMM