It's Apple week! We're examining the world's largest tech company from all angles. Stay tuned to Fool.com all week for full coverage.
There's a lot of money burning a hole in Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL ) pocket these days. It has $23.2 billion in cash and short-term securities -- and another $18.5 billion in long-term marketable securities -- taking up space on its top heavy balance sheet.
What's Apple going to do with all of that money? It has resisted the call for paying out dividends, so it's unlikely to ease up just because its coffers have topped $40 billion. Its share count has inched higher over the past year, so it's not as if it's even spending some of its greenbacks on stock buybacks to offset the dilution.
So what's the deal, Apple? I've heard of saving up for a rainy day, but does Steve Jobs think he's Noah?
It's time for Apple to take on a more aggressive acquisition strategy. It's in the best interest of shareholders given the pittances being paid out on idle cash these days. It's also in the best interest for Apple to act now, before antitrust regulators cage Cupertino in.
Let's go over a few acquisitions that I believe make sense for Apple.
Adobe (Nasdaq: ADBE )
The same company that has put Adobe in a pickle with its reluctance to embrace Adobe's Flash in its iPhone and iPad devices is also the same one that should be on bended knee.
This isn't just about a testy battle over the compatibility of a still-popular video platform. Adobe would look good on Apple's arms as one delves deeper into Adobe's catalog of premium desktop publishing, website authoring, and video-editing software.
Adobe seemed to be the favorite acquisition target around Fooldom two years ago, and it still makes sense today. Apple and Adobe are may be engaged in a war of words, but Apple needs Adobe's support across its product lines to keep hardcore Mac users happy.
Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO )
Don't laugh. Apple is inevitably going to make a splash in search, and Yahoo! is the only one of the three leading engines that is a feasible buyout candidate.
Yahoo! also happens to run the world's most popular free email platform. Really. It has more stateside users than Hotmail and Gmail combined. Why is this a big deal for Apple? Well, MobileMe is the company's premium service that pushes across several devices. The Yahoo! Mail freeloaders may seem like the wrong crowd to push a pay offering to, but the ability to reach the masses shouldn't be underestimated.
Does Yahoo! lack the 'cool' factor needed for Apple products? Perhaps, but let's not forget that Yahoo! also watches over the artist-centric Flickr community of artsy shutterbugs.
Yahoo! commands an enterprise value of $18 billion. It's a bit more than Apple would likely want to splurge on a single deal, but let's not forget the allure of Apple's ability to use its historically appreciating stock to sweeten any kind of transaction.
Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX )
The leading flick delivery service is warming up to Apple's world. CEO Reed Hastings was one of the presenters during last week's introduction of the iPhone 4, announcing the summer availability of a Netflix streaming app for the iPhone. Netflix's application for streaming on the iPad was the top third-party download during its launch two months ago.
The Apple-ization of Netflix is long overdue. Hastings has historically leaned on Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) for everything from its playback platform to streaming first on Windows-powered PCs and Xbox consoles before competing options. Oh, and Hastings also sits on the Microsoft board.
Well, Hastings is coming around, and Netflix's strength rests in the one area where Apple has surprisingly come up empty. Apple TV has been a rare dud and its iTunes a la carte video rentals and purchases haven't exactly dominated the market the way Apple cornered music downloads.
In the meantime, Netflix is only getting more relevant with the couch potato set. It closed out its latest quarter with 14 million subscribers, targeting as many as 17.3 million accounts by the end of the year. Netflix clearly is in the pole position as optical discs race to the digital migration finish line, and it's a place where Apple would love to be.
A couple of years ago, a patent-rich TiVo (Nasdaq: TIVO ) may have been the better bet but its subscriber defections and legal setbacks make Netflix the real play in this space.
Akamai (Nasdaq: AKAM )
It was 11 years ago, during the peak of the dot-com bubble, that Apple acquired a 5% stake in the content-delivery network. The two have been chummy ever since, with Apple often relying on Akamai to serve up software downloads and QuickTime streams through its market-leading fleet of servers.
The rub against Akamai is that it toils away in a cutthroat industry, but this hasn't gotten in the way of consistent profitability and healthy growth. The commoditization of content delivery is trumped by sheer demand as we step deeper into the digital revolution.
Tech heavies may be taking baby steps in this niche, but it's all the more reason for Apple to boldly step into the shoes of the market champ.
Who do you think Apple will buy next? Share your thoughts in the comment box below and I'll be back next week to go over some of your suggestions.