The debate about whether Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) is building a TV set has raged on for years, and now the tech community has added a car to the list of rumors. But just how likely is it that Apple is working on either of them?
Icahn now Apple’s biggest bull?
Activist investor Carl Icahn thinks the rumors must be true—so much so that he sent a letter to Apple Inc. CEO Tim Cook on Monday giving the timeline for when he expects the company to release these rumored products. Today analysts are weighing in on Icahn’s comments, and naturally the comments are mixed.
In his letter on Monday, Icahn said he thinks Apple stock is worth $240 per share. He bases his argument on the release of a TV next year and a car by 2020. However, today there are reports that Apple has abandoned its previous plans for a TV set and is instead focusing on its Apple TV set-top box.
Icahn is thinking big
In a report dated May 18, UBS AG analyst Steven Milunovich stated that the debate on Icahn’s massive $240 per share price target for Apple is mainly focused on how sure Icahn is about the company releasing a car and a TV set However, he adds that the big difference lies in Icahn’s “different tax treatment of overseas cash.”
He notes that Icahn’s iPhone numbers are about the same as his. He put together this chart comparing his numbers to Icahn’s:
The UBS analyst is particularly interested in Icahn’s ability to “think big.”
“His attitude does seem to fit with Cook’s, who has spoken of a ‘mega-ecosystem’ ‘iOS everywhere,’ and ‘don’t put limits on your thinking,” Milunovich wrote. “Icahn’s characterization of people spending 25% of their free time watching TV and autonomous driving perhaps increasing the time spent in cars (now with more time to use Apple gadgets) prima facie make these seem like markets Apple must be in.”
Apple becoming a “conglomerate”
Today on CNBC, Destination Wealth Founder and CEO Michael Yoshikami explained his view of Icahn’s comments, saying he believes the activist investor is expecting Apple to become a “conglomerate.” That basically means Apple could have a bunch of individual units that each function individually (a la Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc). He said the question now is whether Apple can really do this.
An Apple car might disappoint Icahn
When asked about how long it will take Apple to get to $240 a share, Yoshikami chuckled and said it will take “a long time.” He also said he thinks Icahn is being “way, way, way too optimistic,” although he does agree that currently the tech giant is undervalued. He also thinks it will take “a long time” to get to $180 per share and that the stock price can’t move up much from where it is right now in the near term.
But will Apple really release a car one day? This is one debate that will probably go on for years, and a related debate is that if Apple does, will it be a hit?
CNBC’s Arjun Kharpal reports that auto industry expert Scott Key of IHS warned that if Apple really does release a driverless car one day, Carl Icahn might be disappointed in it (And this about someone who seems to think Apple can do no wrong).
Key pointed out that Bayerische Motoren Werke AG, Ford Motor Company and other automakers are “investing a huge amount of money in analytics and around the automotive experience.” He also doesn’t think they will share that information with Apple, leaving the company completely on its own. He noted that Ford now has a research facility in Silicon Valley to look into driverless technology. Also BMW and Mercedes have already shown off their autonomous vehicles at the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this year. Also the list of tech companies researching driverless cars is growing rapidly.
What about that Apple TV?
Analysts also weighed in on what Icahn said about there being an Apple TV coming next year. Piper Jaffray Companies analyst Gene Munster has been betting on a TV set from the Cupertino, Calif.-based tech giant for years. Today’s report that Apple ditched plans for a TV set has finally convinced him that there won’t be a smart TV from the company, according to Street Insider.
Munster added that he had previously thought content was the reason for the delay in an Apple TV set, but today’s report indicates that lack of available innovations in the space caused the company to dump the idea. He had thought that combining Siri with FaceTime, a dedicated app store and motion control sensors would be enough to set Apple’s TV apart from those of competitors.
The analyst didn’t expect Apple shares to be much moved by the report that there probably won’t be an Apple TV, and he was correct. As of this writing, shares of Apple were up by only 0.12% to $130.35 per share.
Apple eyeing the living room
He didn’t totally abandon the idea that Apple has its eyes on the living room, however. He still thinks Apple will do something beyond the Apple TV set-top box. Over the next decade, he thinks the TV set will no longer be the centerpiece of the living room. Instead, he expects augmented and virtual reality to take over the driver’s seat.
He believes Apple is “actively working on early virtual and augmented reality products,” although he thinks it will be more than five years before such products are launched. Munster has an Overweight rating and price target of $162 per share on Apple stock.