A few minutes ago, a California consumer electronics company briefly touched the faces of the financial angels as it's market capitalization reached $1 trillion.
Is it impressive that Apple managed this feat after only four decades? All of them characterized by drama like a troubled genius, revolt, failure, rebirth, the same troubled genius but -like- good this time, a seismic shift in technology, death of said troubled genius, years of cynicism and an ever-growing list of competitors? And that it did it all at a P/E Ratio of like 20?
Sure, yeah, that's impressive.
But let's not be simpletons here. If recent market history has taught us anything, it's that a consistent and austerely managed plan to maximize profits, evade taxes, hoard cash, control Wall Street expectations and meticulously curate your public image is not the way forward anymore. A trillion dollar valuation is cool, but you know what's cooler? A ten-trillion dollar valuation driven ever-higher by a publicly egomaniacal CEO fostering a cult of personality and leveraging it via batshit outbursts in the media. Apple's historic run of vanilla dominance has been accretive, but there could have been so much more.
Remember when Steve Jobs died and everyone wondered if Apple could maintain its inventive dominance and then Tim Cook went on stage a few months later and was like "Here are more iPods and earphones that like fit your ears?" and then the stock price dropped off by like half because consensus was that Apple was boring now?
Well, what if Tim had gone out there and introduced a product that he was years away from being able to deliver? He could have gotten Jony Ive to design it, pretended it was feasible and mocked up gorgeous images and videos to present to the public. He could have gotten a Twitter account on which he could have humble-bragged about how dope his new thing was going to be and teased everyone with how many celebrities he had pre-ordering it and how it was going to change everything. And if anyone dared to challenge the veracity of his claims, Tim could have attacked them as paid agents of Apple short sellers, or just called them "pedos."
Can you imagine what the market would have done? A chance to invest in a secret new Apple product that was so expensive it just had to be life-affirmingly cool? The boost that would have given Cook quarter-over-quarter would have made his little 2012 hiccup inconsequential. And if analysts or customers ever got too curious, he could have just pushed the production timeline on his product back by a quarter or two, made a much bigger deal about Beats headphones, tell Jony to mock up some iFlameThrowers, or buy Yahoo. Cook has always had cash to burn and he should have built a Burning Man of his own in a public park in Cupertino and just shoveled that paper into it.
Cook could also have turned his personal life into a public billionaire vaudeville routine. Turning up at weird secret parties, getting single and being photographed out on the town with Jonathan Van Ness or Adam Lambert. Or, even better, he should have gone to a sex party and pretended like he had no idea when he got caught. The people that really move Apple's stock price would have eaten that shit up, and the norm-thinking short-sellers would have been drawn in like value investing moths to an illogical flame.
The big secret product could even have been something of a dud, blowing up in peoples pants or houses, setting fires from Palo Alto to Montauk and creating a media shitstorm. All Cook would have had to do was make Messianic claims about his vision and start acting fucking loony and cruel on Apple earning calls. By the time an actual great idea came back around or whoever remained working for him had worked out the bugs in the other thing, Cook would have been able to keep burning cash and leverage his cultish followers into a $1 trillion valuation back in 2014!
But now you're wondering if he could have been able to keep it up? If he would have folded under all the pressure of being a manically difficult and factually obtuse playboy billionaire industrialist? Well, you rube, he almost certainly would have by now, but who cares? When the music stopped, Cook could have just jumped on a quarterly call, announced austerity measures, apologized to analysts for being a vainglorious prick, settled down with new husband Frank Ocean and unveiled Apple's newest venture; an electric sports car that he was pretty sure he could mass-produce.
And there you have it, kids: Apple at $10 trillion.
Don't get mad at us, this is just how finance works apparently.