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Could One of These Be the Next Apple Inc. (AAPL)?

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Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) was the darling stock of 2012. Over the first 10 months of the year, shares nearly doubled — a string of impressive earnings reports coupled with hot new product releases catapulted shares over $700. But then something changed: Shares plummeted in the fourth quarter. Hedge funds sold their Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) stock and expectations for the company’s upcoming products were curtailed.

With Apple shares now seemingly range-bound around $450, could new stocks emerge to take its place in the investing universe? Although their businesses are quite different from Apple’s, both American International Group, Inc. (NYSE:AIG) and Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) have shown signs that they might just be the “next Apple.”

Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) is no longer the most popular hedge fund hotel
Not that long ago, Apple was labeled a “hedge fund hotel.” The investing blog Zerohedge pointed out that a record 231 different hedge funds had stakes in Apple back in September. But after the release of last week’s 13F filings, that is no longer the case.

Plenty of funds completely dumped their Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) stakes in the fourth quarter of 2012, including notable funds such as Jana Partners, Leon Cooperman’s Omega Advisors, and Dan Loeb’s Third Point.

Insider Monkey points out that Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) is no longer the most widely held stock among hedge funds. (To be fair, it’s still the third most commonly held, and the most commonly held tech stock.) What company has taken its place as the hedge fund darling? None other than financial giant AIG.

Rather than use their capital to bet on the success of the new iPhone, hedge funds appear to prefer betting on an insurer. As the treasury has now totally sold off its stake, AIG’s flamboyant CEO Bob Benmosche might be able to generate tremendous profits from a recovering global economy.

Hype over Apple’s products seems to have diminished
It probably isn’t a coincidence that Apple’s stock set its all-time high just a few days before the iPhone 5 hit the shelves. Since then, concern has only grown that Apple’s days of product innovation might be behind it.

Just after the release of the iPad Mini, noted Apple bear Jeff Gundlach joked back in November that Apple might be preparing to release a “tooty-fruity” version of the iPad, an iPad available in a variety of different colors. (Gundlach might not be that far from the mark; it’s what Apple did with the iPod toward the end of its dominance.)

Regardless of whether or not that’s actually the case, it seems to be the general perception of a growing number of investors. Is there a different company that could absorb that sort of frenzied hype over its products?

Google has quietly started to become a product company
When it went public in 2004, Google was seen by almost everyone as simply a search engine. A remarkable one, but a search engine nonetheless. But since that time, Google has expanded tremendously, with its most notable new business being its mobile operating system, Android.

With Android, Google has thus far taken on the strategy Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) used dominate the PC world in the 1990s — produce the operating system, let other companies make the hardware.

But then in 2011, Google acquired handset maker Motorola. The company promised to run Motorola as a private subsidiary, claiming to have acquired it strictly for its patent portfolio.

However, Google opted to replace Motorola’s management with its own people. Now, widespread rumors indicate that the company is working directly with its Motorola arm to create the so-called “X phone.”

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