The Northern Spy: stock in trade
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The Northern Spy: stock in trade

By Rick Sutcliffe

Apple's stock continues to behave strangely, but with more explanation in recent weeks. Seems a couple of large hedge funds sold billions in Apple shares over a short period, driving the price down. More recently, another fund manager speculated on a stock split, which caused a short rally in the shares. Yet another wants to extract cash from Apple's hoard into his own pocket.

All these moves are both short-sighted and self-serving. Indeed, it seems to the Spy that any plans to sell large dollar values of a stock should be reportable, even as are ones to trade in large percentages. What if a billion in shares is less than a quarter of a percent? Surely transactions that large should be regarded as insider trading, for shares are obviously sensitive to such dumps. It's not every day that someone is ready and able to increase their holdings by several billion dollars.

Speculating on a stock split is like speculating on what new products Apple will release -- utterly futile. Either that, or it's a deliberate attempt to manipulate a stock that is known to be ultra sensitive to any kind of news, even when it is manufactured. 'Course, some people are adept at manufacturing both history and news.

Finally, it seems somewhat galling to the Spy to have an investor come to the plate with a small stake and demand Apple hand over cash just because he or his company owns a few shares. Seems to me there has to be a balance between the best interests of the company and the immediate desires of a few shareholders to acquire cash. From the outside, this looks like a clash between builders and looters.

Let's hope the company directors understand and act on the fact that their fiduciary duty goes far beyond maximizing shareholder value. Their first loyalty is to the health and well-being of the company, not to the Swiss bank accounts of a few already well-heeled and greedy-for-more speculators. That's why current wisdom has it that a board should include some (even a majority) of independent directors, who own no shares, and therefore will not interpret their duty to stakeholders to include only those like themselves. Or, when does such a duty become pure self-interest.

The Spy still believes ATNBT (Almost The Next Big Thing) from Apple could require a lot of capital, either to buy or to build infrastructure. If one of those Things is TV, for instance, both a content vault and a means of distribution could be necessary, and neither would come cheap. A pile of cash will be needed. If it is iWatch, neither is required, just some new wholesale channels to get them into every jewelry store on the continent.

And on the subject of new products, the Spy notes that Apple has already ceased taking orders on the MacPro in Europe due to product standards issues. Perhaps the rollout of the tower's replacement was originally planned for later in the year, but this may need to be accelerated, for Apple owes its developers.

The Spy is more convinced than ever that said replacement will not be a tower, but a system, a collection of components if you will. Given that MacPro towers are no longer displayed in retail stores, this seems a decision long made, awaiting only the depletion of current stock, the completion of OSX 10.9, and/or exit from the research and prototyping lab of the new professionals' gold standard machine--call it, for sake of argument, the iProMac.

Try these specs: Box number one is the CPU (8 or 16 cores, a couple of speed options), no more than twice the size of a MacMini. It has a power cord, two USB3, four Thunderbolt, one or two internal solid state drive positions, possibly two ethernet ports and HDMI, with Firewire and card reader slots clocking in at a very low percentage call. A truly minimalist design (which Apple often does) would have only the Thunderbolt ports, nothing else. It might not be a serviceable unit.

Optional box number two connects by Thunderbolt (or a proprietary electro-mechanical latch) and has up to six slots for PCI cards (maybe comes in two models, only one of which can take full length cards). It will be quickly imitated by third parties, but they will face long delays getting approval to market Thunderbolt devices.

Optional box number three (for which we may need to go third party for lack of interest on Apple's part) also connects by Thunderbolt and has multiple I/O ports, including video, audio, Firewire, USB, eSATA, etc. (though the Spy has little incentive to purchase any more eSATA--to finicky, little or no speed gain, and a reliability loss compared to FW800. Better to use a disk enclosure with its own Thunderbolt port.) Buy your own monitor, and optional box number four--for your raid array.

Trickiest engineering, and perhaps the reason for the delay--getting said boxes to play coolly without fans. You can bet one of iSteve's last will and testament items was to banish the latter going forward. Wouldn't it be nice to program it in the brand new Modula-2 R10? (link below)

Oh, yes, the mainstream media's speculators and Apple watchers have other interests. But frankly, the Spy has no interest in cellphones any more, little in the larger iPads and is happy enough for now with his several-years-old iPodTouch. When it breaks down, he'd like a pocket iPud/Pad/Pod with a five to seven inch screen (when unfolded or unrolled). By that time (three years?), its capabilities may approach those of his PIEA (Personal Intelligence Enhancement Appliance) that he described here, in "The Fourth Civilization", and in his Alternate History SF, starting two decades back. Perhaps by then the Internet and the apps to use it will begin to mimic the Metalibrary he described with the PIEA. If so, it will be Apple that defines both the software and hardware interface. No one else is innovating these days.

--The Northern Spy

Opinions expressed here are entirely the author's own, and no endorsement is implied by any community or organization to which he may be attached. Rick Sutcliffe, (a.k.a. The Northern Spy) is professor of Computing Science and Mathematics at Canada's Trinity Western University. He has been involved as a member or consultant with the boards of several organizations, including in the corporate sector, and participated in industry standards at the national and international level. He is a long time technology author and has written two textbooks and six novels, one named best ePublished SF novel for 2003. His columns have appeared in numerous magazines and newspapers (paper and online), and he's a regular speaker at churches, schools, academic meetings, and conferences. He and his wife Joyce have lived in the Aldergrove/Bradner area of BC since 1972.

Want to discuss this and other Northern Spy columns? Surf on over to Participate and you could win free web hosting from the subsidiary of Arjay Web Services. Rick Sutcliffe's fiction can be purchased in various eBook formats from Fictionwise, and in dead tree form from Amazon's Booksurge.

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