Apple shareholder Q&A: Apple’s growing pile of cash, Android, and the Mac/PC wars

Thu, Feb 24, 2011

Finance, News

Apple on Wednesday held its annual shareholders meeting where, among other things, an initiative that would force Apple to release its CEO succession plan was voted down. With Steve Jobs out on medical leave, Apple COO Tim Cook presided over the meeting and led up a Q&A discussion afterwards.

AppleInsider was in attendance and relayed some of the highlights.

First up was a question about Apple’s growing cash reserves. Some analysts and investors have been clamoring for Apple to issue a dividend, or at the very least, initiate a stock buy back with Apple’s growing stockpile of $50+ million in cash. The question asked if Apple had an internally agreed upon ceiling for its cash reserves at which point the company would do something else aside from letting it accrue interest.

Fielding the question, Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer said Apple wanted to keep the cash on hand “to do great things”, and that though there’s no specific ceiling, the company will keep all options open moving forward.

During last year’s shareholder meeting, Steve Jobs was asked a similar question to which he responded, “We know if we need to acquire something – a piece of the puzzle to make something big and bold – we can write a check for it and not borrow a lot of money and put our whole company at risk. The cash in the bank gives us tremendous security and flexibility.”

Moving on, Cook addressed the rise of Android, and mirroring statements he made during Apple’s most recent earnings conference call, Cook explained that Apple’s integrated approach is superior to Google’s Android strategy, an approach that Cook says “turns the user into the system integrator.” Cook also added that Apple would have sold even more iPhones during the past quarter if they had been able to build them fast enough.

Keeping up with the Android theme, one shareholder asked quite pointedly if Apple saw any parallels to their current competition with Google’s mobile OS and the Mac/PC wars of the late 80s and early 90s.

Phil Schiller stepped up to the plate to address the query.

Schiller answered that the situation is completely different today, as Apple is a different company, with different products, adding that it has learned a lot from looking at its history, and noting that many of the people who were at Apple during that previous period are still there, including Schiller himself.

Schiller added that back then, Apple was competing against companies like Compaq and IBM, which are not around today in the PC business, unlike Apple. He also pointed out that in “post PC” devices, “integration is far more important,” than it was among desktop PCs. Apple is also the undisputed leader, adding that Apple was now well ahead of its competitors in software with its App Store, an area it formerly lagged behind on with the Mac.

In short, Schiller said that “the analogy doesn’t fit.”



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