Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) is still one of the most valuable companies in the world, and it’s next big product launch is just a week away. The company is still, if the motions are to be believed, working as ever. Life for Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) does not mean yearly launches. Life at Apple means innovation. That’s been sorely missing at Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL).

Apple AAPL

The last really new product and important that Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) launched was the iPad. That device changed the PC market forever. The company’s newer launches have included a music streaming service. Competitors abound in that field, and Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) will find it difficult to offer a better service.

Apple and shareholder value

Over at the Globe and Mail, Eric Reguly reckons that Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) is swapping its innovative past for a short term return of capital to shareholders. Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) has started paying dividends recently, and has started a massive buyback program. Innovation and shareholder value do not have to be competing interests, but Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) may have different reasons for jumping to capital plans instead of product launches.

The theory is that Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) is now extracting value rather than creating it. The company is concentrating on giving back to shareholders rather than reinvesting. At another company that may hold true, but Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) has been sitting on a pile of uninvested cash and watching it grow for a decade.

Apple isn’t really swapping value creation for value extraction, it’s adding value extraction as a way to stabilize its share price in the face of changes in its business. The questions that should be asked are not about whether or not the company is creating value, but why it isn’t with one of the biggest R&D budgets in the world.

Apple in a bunker

The problem might be that Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) is simply not courageous enough to release a new product. With the huge amount of talented engineers working at the company and the huge research and capital budgets, a lot of ideas are coming out of the company. The problem at Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) might be getting those ideas approved for product development, and then approved for build and sale.

As September comes for use, we’re likely to see this attitude in the next iPhone launch. Investors still seem excited, but not at $700 per share.

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