Apple to hand back part of cash stockpile to investors – here are five other things they could have done with the money

Apple has announced what many thought it never would – shareholders will be paid a dividend every quarter for the next three years.

 

With pressure building on the company over its stockpile of $US100 billion, chief executive Tim Cook announced in a phone conference that shareholders would be paid out $US45 billion over three years.

The dividends are the first to be paid out since the mid-1990s

The company also announced a share buyback, with the tech giant now planning to spend $US10 billion on acquiring more of its stock beginning in the next financial year.

“We have used some of our cash to make great investments in our business through increased research and development, acquisitions, new retail store openings, strategic prepayments and capital expenditures in our supply chain, and building out our infrastructure. You’ll see more of all of these in the future,” Cook said.

While Apple still has plenty of cash to make new investments and expand – it  generated $US31 billion in surplus cash in 2011 and $US24 billion in the first quarter of 2012 – there is already debate over whether the company has made the right decision here.

Paying out dividends is a welcome announcement, but here’s a few other things they could have done with the money.

Hulu

Rumour has it Apple is keen to disrupt the television market in more ways than one, and controlling content is a big part of that plan. Acquiring the website would give the company a number of options with regard to streaming content through its devices, and more leverage in producing content for its rumoured television set.

Apple has always been close to the art of film and television – Steve Jobs helped found Pixar, after all – and this purchase would be cheap and easy to pull off.

Research In Motion

Not so cheap, and not so easy to pull off, but still a possibility. RIM’s dominance in the industry is falling fast and there’s some good talent in there Apple would be happy to pick up.

This wouldn’t be an acquisition for products, though. Apple would swoop in, and kill off a competitor in the enterprise space. Whether or not regulators would go for it, however, is a completely different question.

Samsung

This one is a bit out there, but it’s certainly plausible. Samsung is one of the biggest manufacturer of displays for Apple devices. Buying that division of the company could be a real win for its supply chain.

The likelihood of this is next to nothing, however, as the competition issues alone would be enormous.

Manufacturing

Apple has been at the centre of many controversies, and most recently the issue of workers’ conditions in China. The company continues to manufacture products there because it’s simply too expensive in the US.

But Steve Jobs was always passionate about ensuring job creation. Using a bit of that $US100 billion to bring manufacturing back to the United States could be a great idea, providing more jobs, and it would certainly be a good move for relations with the Obama administration.

Battery research

This is a bit of a weird one.

Batteries are a problem. The types of devices we’re using everyday are sucking juice extremely quickly, resulting in having to charge smartphones every day. Laptops are designed as a portable computer and yet can’t survive more than seven or eight hours at the very most.

Some might argue that’s enough, but gadgets are only going to get more powerful. As MG Seigler pointed out yesterday, the market for batteries is ripe for disruption.

Imagine a MacBook that could go without a charge for a week, or an iPad for a month? It would completely change the entire space. Apple’s most likely already researching this thoroughly, but some extra money couldn’t hurt.

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