What could Apple do with all that money?

| Sunday, March 25th, 2012

Earlier this week, Barry Ritholtz wrote his thoughts on why Apple should buy Twitter. Integration with iTunes, using Apple Photos instead of TwitPic, becoming a “competitive player in social networking”, and keeping away from competitors like Google, Facebook and Microsoft were some of his key arguments for this service, each and every one being valid.

Yesterday, Mike Elgan at Cult of Mac countered with “Why Apple Should Buy…. Nothing”. His argument? Doing things someone else’s way isn’t the Apple Way™. Also extremely valid. Jobs’ mantra always seemed to be “everyone else is a bunch of dumbs*** a**holes, let’s do it better.”

What if we look at it from that perspective? The “let’s not buy, let’s just make it ourselves, and make it better” angle?Perhaps Apple could fix or beef up some preexisting issues and services. If I had my way, I’d separate iTunes and every aspect of the iOS from each other. You’ve got the App Store already, why not just combine them? It’s pretty simple to have Mac, iPhone, and iPad tabs. Everything syncs in one place. Everything updates in one place. Tie in Software Update to the App Store, so users are instantly notified when updates are available for any app they own. This wouldn’t cost you a penny, just moving a few developers around. (Also, while you’re trimming iTunes… can we just nuke Ping? Admit it, it’s a colossal failure, and my only interaction with it is to shut it off on every device I own.) Also, iCloud. Great for syncing your contacts, calendars, and mail accounts. Sucks for pretty much anything else right now.

Perhaps they could turn even further inward as far as developing their own chips, screens, hard drives, or any aspect of their hardware. But why? The hardware Apple uses in their products is clearly top notch, and they don’t accept anything less. They’ve already acquired a fair number of companies and brought them in-house (9 companies since 2010); do they really need to buy any more? Apple’s suppliers and external manufacturers are held to the same meticulous standards that all internal work is. While I can definitely see Apple acquiring more companies, it really just doesn’t make sense to me as a “dump ALL the money into this” venture.

But there’s one thing that sticks out in my head of what Apple could do with their funds: build their own cellular network.

Think about it. What are the biggest gripes with the iPhone, by and large? Reception, service, consistent speeds from city to city, and having to work through third party retailers to get anything accomplished. Plus, you’ve got the whole Unlimited vs. “Unlimited (wink wink)” kerfuffle with practically every provider. That’s very un-Apple.

So what if they invested that $300 bagillion-trillion or whatever gold-coin-filled swimming pool in a cellular network? I have zero idea exactly how much that would cost, but think about the returns they’d get. No more third party phone retailers; everything is just straight from Apple. No more worrying about developing phones to work with everyone’s network; you just have your own to worry about. One phone, one tablet, on one network. Then they could start building LTE capabilities into MacBooks, start charging you straight to your iCloud/iTunes Store account, cut out every middleman, and literally rule the US cellular market. Android fans would be happy too. With no iPhones bogging down their network, their speeds should be insane (unless, of course, the speeds sucked to begin with). Plus, if Apple actually did this, you might see current providers get their butts in gear and actually start trying to compete, instead of cooling their heels with the “well, it’s good enough” mentality.

And apparently, I’m not delusional in my thinking. After hunting around with The Google, it seems that Steve Jobs envisioned this sort of thing when he launched the iPhone. Rather than work with the carriers, Jobs wanted to have the iPhone utilize the unlicensed wavelength spectrum that Wi-Fi currently uses. Eventually, he gave up on the idea, but this was back in 2007. Five years later, the cash-on-hand difference is massive. If money was a factor in Jobs’ decision to give up, then I feel Apple should definitely revisit this idea.

Logical? Maybe. Likely? Who knows. But it’s very, VERY enticing to think about.

What do you think? Agree? Disagree? Have other ideas of where the money could go? Leave a comment below with your thoughts.

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