There are a lot of different words that are used to describe Steve Jobs' approach to running Apple (some more pleasant than others). I think we can all agree that "conventional" isn't one of them. Based on Jobs' comments last week, it's safe to say that this disregard for convention extends to financial matters. But in this case, Jobs' originality might be less a sign of his distinct brand of genius than a strong paranoid streak.
As Matt Koppenheffer noted on Friday, Jobs recently shot down the idea that Apple
A reluctance to make big moves
However, even a quick look at Apple's acquisition history makes it clear that this isn't a company with a habit of doing high-profile deals that take a huge bite out of its balance sheet. In fact, the company's largest moves in recent years have been its $268 million acquisition of chip company PA Semi in 2008, and its $275 million buyout of mobile advertising firm Quattro Wireless this January.
This reluctance to make splashy, expensive acquisitions seems to be a direct result of Apple's unique business philosophy. As its supporters will vouch, the company is fanatically obsessed with quality control, and on adhering to its own particular vision of what a piece of hardware or software bearing the Apple logo should look like. Unlike, say, Google
So while Apple's cash pile might theoretically give the company the "flexibility" to snap up a Garmin
Is Hollywood a target?
The one area where I could see Apple truly opening up its purse strings a bit is in deals with media companies. Given its squabbles with Hollywood studios regarding the availability and pricing of iTunes content, the company might decide to use some of its billions to make "strategic investments" in the likes of Disney
Steve Jobs likes to be in control, whether over the minute details of his company's products, or the enormous sums of money these products have created for his company. In the former area, this need for control has mostly worked to his shareholders' benefit. But I'm not so sure that's true in the latter.