For a moment, I'd like you to consider something remarkable:

Net Cash After Debt






Dec. 31, 2007



Dec. 31, 2006



Dec. 31, 2005



Source: Capital IQ, a division of Standard & Poor's. Numbers in billions.

How about that? Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) outpaces Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) in net cash and liquid assets by almost $7 billion. The iPod and the iPhone must be exactly as big as we all thought. (Seriously. Look at those 2005 numbers.)

And your point is...?
Mac addicts will be tempted to gloat. They shouldn't. Apple needs all the cash it can get. Competition is fiercer and expectations are higher than they've ever been. Research In Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM), Nokia (NYSE:NOK), and Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) all want a slice of hot, tasty Apple pie.

"I'm not sure that brand loyalty (as silly as I find it with them) will matter enough as their are cheaper versions of many of their products out there," wrote CAPS investor vladus2000 about Apple earlier this month. "They have made a killing constantly staying ahead of the curve, I'm not sure they are going to be able to sustain it in the current climate."

I'm not so sure of that myself. But, as a shareholder, I'll confess to being comforted by Apple's moves; CEO Steve Jobs, alive and well, is taking no chances. The iEmpire spent $486 million on advertising in fiscal 2008, up 4% from fiscal '07 and 44% from the year prior, VentureBeat reports. A flurry of new pitches showcasing the iPhone's App Store advantage suggests that fiscal 2009 will see even more ad spending increases.

You know what that means: Mr. Mac still hates Mr. Softy. And he's using his surprisingly fat wallet to exact revenge.

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