Trip to Santa Fe and Some Thoughts on Apple

I am back from Santa Fe.  It was a fun trip.  My father, who turned 80 a few months ago, my son Jonah, and I drove from Denver to Pagosa Springs, spent a day there, and then drove to Santa Fe (stopping on the way in Los Alamos).  Santa Fe is an artsy little town.  Its buildings come in different shapes, colors, and sizes as long as they are adobe, one-story and beige-colored.  It was my second time in Santa Fe.  The first time was in the late ’90s, before smart phones, TripAdvisor, and Yelp, and it was a spur of the moment kind of getaway trip.  I knew very little about the town then, saw very little of it, and didn’t particularly care for it.

My father, who has had his paintings in Santa Fe galleries for years, knows the town well, and he was our tour guide this time.  One morning we got up early and walked galleries along Canyon Street.  I’m told there are over one hundred fifty galleries on that street, and we must have stopped by most of them.  This was the first time I had done something like that, and I loved it.  It is not unlike going to different exhibitions in a very large museum.  I know little about art, so father was critiquing the work and teaching us about it.

Later in the evening we went to see La Traviata, which was an amazing experience.  The Santa Fe Opera House is located outside of the city, near the mountains, in a large open space.  A perfect place for a tailgate party.  Yes, opera tailgate parties!  I had seen tailgating at football games, but never at the opera.  People brought food and wine, and their car stereos were playing opera.  I loved it.  The Santa Fe Opera House is a beautiful building that has a roof but almost no walls on the sides or behind the stage.  I can see why people come from all over North America in the summer just to spend an evening or two at the Santa Fe Opera.

I was very impressed by son Jonah.  I asked him what he thought of spending half a day visiting galleries and then wrapping up the day at the opera.  He said “It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.”  To me this is big praise coming from a twelve-year-old!

Here are some pictures from the trip. These are pictures that I took with my Canon SLR, and here are the ones that were taken with my iPhone. (The sad part is that the pictures taken with the iPhone ended up being better than the ones taken with the bulky, fancy camera.)

While we walking galleries, I noticed that only two or three had Windows PCs while the rest had Apple computers.  The art community disproportionately favors Apple.  Speaking of Apple, it last-quarter numbers were not great – iPhones sales were good, but iPad sales were not.  The AAPL conference call was a waste of time – management said nothing new except to toss us this line: “The most recently published study by Kantar measured a 93% loyalty rate among iPhone owners, significantly higher than our competitors.”  This is a truly incredible figure.  If you use iPhone or iPad, you are very unlikely to buy a competitor’s products, even if they underprice them significantly.  It’s not apparent at first, but this loyalty creates an insane recurrence of revenue.

My mother-in-law had an Android tablet, and it quickly turned into an expensive paperweight on her kitchen counter.  Six months ago she got an iPad mini, and she is inseparable from it.  She won’t be buying another non-Apple phone or tablet.  There is a lot of bearishness on Apple in the media and blogosphere, but if these headlines start scaring you out of the stock, just visit a few Apple stores and your fears will all go away – the one we dropped in on recently in Denver was swarming with Apple fanatics, while the Microsoft store next door and the Samsung store at Best Buy were almost empty.  These folks will be buying whatever comes out of Cupertino for a long, long time.

Final thought on Apple.  In early June Apple introduced the Mac Pro.  Though this product is not very important for Apple financially – PCs and laptops are only about 15% of Apple’s sales – it clearly shows that innovation at Apple post-Steve Jobs is still very much alive.  With the exception of the operating system, all the components inside the Mac Pro are the same commodities you’ll find in your sucky, garden-variety Windows PC.  Despite that, Apple has managed to create a brilliant product in a category of products that has seen little innovation.  In addition to a cool look, it features a unique cooling design that also allows easy access to the guts of the system.