After years of being one of the most widely read and quoted Apple analysts on Wall Street, Piper Jaffray's Gene Munster on Friday released his final research note on the company.
Munster, who is leaving Piper Jaffray for a new career in venture capital at year's end, has written 874 research notes on Apple, most of them bullish. In the final note, Munster offers his thoughts on the next years for Apple and a cool story of what got him excited about the company in the first place.
As for Apple's future, Munster sees the company looking to increasingly become a services company and points to augmented reality as one of the key opportunities for Apple to innovate.
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"The smartphone remains the world's window to augmented reality today," Munster wrote in the note. "While this will change driven by augmented and mixed reality hardware in the future, we would expect the next five years of AR innovation will happen mainly through the device in our pockets."
Adding various sensors to phones and creating external glasses are among the short-term opportunities, he said. But over the longer term (more than five years out), Munster said he believes "Apple could develop some type of AR or MR wearable that ultimately replaces the smartphone."
There was no mention in the note of Apple's plans to build an actual television set, which Munster had predicted for years. And he doesn't see the company giving up on cars, though he said Apple may end up working with traditional carmakers and focusing on what kinds of services it can offer them.
"We believe the efforts in automotive tie back to services in that automotive for Apple may mean partnering with experienced automakers to deliver great services rather than building the hardware itself, cars in this case," Munster wrote. "While an autonomous vehicle solution from Apple, either a car or the software, is likely multiple years away, we view auto as the next platform likely for the company to try to own."
Munster closes the note with a story, pointing to the 2001 launch of the iPod, which he got for Christmas from his parents that year, as the starting point in his interest in all things Apple.
"In those days, you had to have a Mac to put music on the iPod, so I would spend nights in the design office at Piper Jaffray painfully uploading music from CDs on the only Mac I had access to," Munster wrote. "The experience was rough, but using the iPod gave me a sense of joy I never had from any other product. They did it with the iPod and recreated that joy with the iPhone. That magic is a big reason why we've been unwavering bulls on Apple for almost the entire time we've covered it. Sometimes we missed the short-term, but long-term it's been the right bet."
For those who want to follow Munster's next chapter, his new company Loup Ventures has a placeholder site here.
Update: I asked Munster what it felt like to pen that final note.
"It's cliche, but there were lots of emotions," he said in an e-mail. "I've been doing this a long time, and I was thinking back to the fun that I've had, the people who have helped me, and how much I'm going to miss them. I love research, and knowing that I'll continue to do that in my new role made writing my farewell to the sell side a little easier."
—By Ina Fried, Recode.net.
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