Last week, during Apple's quarterly earnings call, the company announced they were holding more than US$250B in cash. That's a lot of loose change behind the couch cushions at 1 Infinite Loop, Cupertino. What should they do with that cash? While money in the bank might warm the cockles of Apple's shareholders' hearts, the best use for cash is doing something useful with it. Here are five things I think Apple should do with their cash (aside from cover my mortgage!).
#1 Get real about their SVOD ambitions
Say what you like, but Apple did change the nature of the music business, and to a lesser degree movies and TV, when they launched the iTunes Store back in January 2001. But since then they've been largely overtaken by the likes of Spotify and Netflix.
Apple is rarely the first mover in markets. The iPod wasn't the first portable MP3 player, the iPhone wasn't the first smartphone, and the Mac was not the first personal computer. So, it's not surprising they haven't jumped into SVOD.
But given they have faced numerous delays producing a series of Carpool Karaoke, I can't but think they need to invest if they want to meet the rising tide of Amazon, HBO, The CW and others launching their own SVOD services. Heck - even the WWE is doing a better job at the moment!
#2 Invest in better software testing
Why is it that almost as soon as a new version of macOS or iOS is released that we see a point release almost immediately? I think we have become so accustomed to buggy first releases that we are resigned to updating a week after an upgrade.
Apple's advantage is that they control the whole widget. They dictate the precise hardware and software stack.
I think they can do better.
#3 Holograms baby!
We've been fantasizing over holographic interfaces for years. Ever since River Phoenix was a database angel in the Michael Douglas and Demi Moore flick Disclosure, I've wanted a hologram-based UI for my computer.
Apple's considerable cash and creative resources could make this a reality.
#4 Cars, but not like you think
I don't want to see Apple making cars. I'm not convinced it's a good strategic move for them. Apple's strength has always been about complete control of the user experience. But where Apple could make a difference is through an extension of CarPlay.
I can see a place for carOS - a software environment that delivers more than just a fancy handsfree for the phone and pretty UI for the entertainment system and climate control. This would be a full diagnostic and experiential system that let you know when things were going wrong before they happened. It's the sort of data apps like Dash give you via an OBD device but integrated into a more holistic in-car experience.
#5 Stretch their social justice legs
This is the tough one. Apple is in a position to do more social good than most of us can imagine. They aren't alone in this but this is an article about Apple's bank balance. The same could apply to almost any other company with enough money to be considered their own economy.
I think part of this would be to not engage in aggressive tax minimisation strategies and, instead, pay higher taxes so the countries they profit in can put funds into healthcare, education and other public benefits.
It seems obscene to me that they can hold $250B in cash while diseases like leprosy, which are easily curable using modern medicine, are still prevalent in parts of the world.
They could plug a few billion each year into important causes and not miss it.
What do you think? What could Apple do with their bank balance?