Laura Banks
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Laura Banks in Markets and everything in & between!,

What if Steve Jobs still ran Apple?

In his letter to Apple today, Carl Icahn lists a litany of reasons why Apple’s stock is undervalued and how to get it up closer to what he thinks is fair value right now. I’d like to welcome Carl Icahn, once again, to the “Apple’s undervalued” camp. But I think he’s missing the main reason that Apple isn’t at $200 right now — and that is because it is and always now will be, Steve Jobs-less.

I’ve proudly owned Apple since it was trading for less than the cash on its balance sheet, back $1 per share back in March 2003, in large part because I thought that with Steve Jobs having returned as CEO that Apple was poised to become a great Revolution Investment.

One of Steve’s greatest attributes was that he was willing to take huge risks and develop crazy new products (like an MP3 player with a scroll wheel on it or a tablet computer called iPad) and platforms (like iTunes or iOS). The biggest (only?) risk that Tim Cook’s had Apple undertake is the upcoming Apple Watch. If Steve Jobs were running Apple today, the Apple Watch would definitely have been called iWatch (remember how Apple had to pay up to buy the iPhone name from Cisco?). And the Apple iWatch would have been out last year or the year before.

If Steve Jobs were alive today, I bet the iPhone wouldn’t have changed the size of its screen as Steve Jobs famously thought he’d found the perfect size for the iPhone screen. Rather, we’d now be closer to a credit card thin iPhone running an iOS that would already include live widgets. Steve Jobs would have been pushing innovation in the iOS rather than playing catch up with Android as Tim Cook has done.

Finally, if Steve Jobs were alive today, I don’t think that Apple would be paying a dividend. And ask Warren Buffett about trying to advise Steve Jobs to buy back Apple stock. Rather, Steve loved his cash hoard. Scutify Factoid of the day for you: If Apple had never paid a dividend or bought back any shares, it would likely have another $130 billion in net cash on its balance sheet — or more than $40 per share, or twice its current cash balance under Tim Cook.

Clearly, nobody knows exactly what left turns and changes and other products and ideas the late, great Steve Jobs would be working on right now. But having owned the stock throughout the greatest run in its history, from March 2003 to October 2011 when he passed, I remember a lot of lessons and insights that Steve Jobs provided us over the years. In the 2006 interview below, I was totally channeling my inner (wannabe) Steve Jobs.