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Perspectives From a Vantage Point

Opinion

Apple’s Loaded Gun – Ready to Fire!

On the wee hours of June 21st, I wrote a post about “troubles” that Apple’s management is facing given the staggering amount of cash on it’s balance sheet. I speculated that Apple will have to decide to give out a special dividend, choose to acquire one or more companies or do both. I wrote the following in that post

It could do one of two things or a combination of the two, and, either way, for Apple, it will be a break from its past. So what are these two things? First, Apple could offer a large one time dividend (a la Microsoft in 2003) to shareholders, followed by regular quarterly dividends. Even though Apple is sitting on large piles of cash on its balance sheet, it will be under no pressure, at least not in the immediate future, to do this – for the simple reason that Investors are happy with the returns they are getting, despite Apple’s “inability” to reinvest that money.

That leads us to the second option in front of the mercurial gang from Cupertino. It could make strategic acquisition in the technology space, and there are a lot of attractive players in this space.

Furthermore I argued that Apple’s weakness is in cloud and not in software or hardware. That lead me to the conclusion that Apple would/should acquire an internet company - my picks were Twitter or Yahoo. Then in the comment section, Rajesh R Shenoy reminded me that Steve Jobs and Apple had a history with media and therefore a pure media company could also be a potential candidate. I meant this to mean a company like Netflix. I wrote the following in the comment section of that post:

Your point about media company  is a good one. I thought about Apple as a potential buyer for a company like Hulu. But I don’t think that is the kind of media company that Apple would be interested in. Apple already sells multimedia over iTunes. I am not sure how interested they will be in a low fixed monthly payment model approach taken by the likes of Hulu & Netflix.

I got two things right. First Apple will break tradition and will acquire larger companies. Second, as Apple tries to fill gaps in its portfolio of product offerings through acquisition, it confirmed my conclusion that weakness lies in cloud. How do I know this? Two stories – first about confirming that Apple is considering an acquisition bid for Hulu.

Apple Inc. , with $76.2 billion in cash and securities on its books, is considering making a bid for the Hulu online video service, two people with knowledge of the auction said.

Apple, the world’s second-most-valuable company, is in early talks that may lead to an offer for Hulu, said the people, who weren’t authorized to speak publicly.

Second is more of a confirmation from a third party - an analyst – that cloud is Apple’s weakness. I came across this video at the bottom of the bloomberg story on Apple’s potential hulu bid.

I also was right in considering Hulu as a potential acquisition target for Apple, yet I completely failed to see what Apple saw in Hulu. To be frank, I do not know what Apple sees in Hulu’s business model. Given Apple’s successes in the recent past, they obviously know infinitely more about running a technology company than this mere aficionado of technology.