Last week, Apple reported that it now has reserves of $76 billion in cash, short term securities and long term securities. As many wags pointed out, that’s more than the cash-strapped U.S. government has left. On Tuesday, Apple also briefly surpassed Exxon Mobil to become the world’s most highly valued company, at more than $340 billion in stock-market valuation.
With tens of billions of dollars to throw around and super-high investor confidence, shouldn’t Apple reinvest in some cutting-edge R&D that could make it even more successful?
Apple has already shown the value of introducing unique new technologies for its products: the iPhone’s advanced touchscreen and the MacBook’s one-piece aluminum case, for example. Apple has also begun bringing CPU chip design and production closer to home, giving it another technological advantage.
So it wouldn’t be a stretch for Apple to spend some of its cash on bringing new technologies into existence that competitors couldn’t touch. Never mind buying Hulu or some other company. Here are five ways could Apple actually invent the future, and thwart other makers of phones, tablets, and computers.
5. Color screens that work in the sunshine
As much as I love printed books, I’d much rather tote a skinny little iPad for my on-the-go reading. But here in sunny Los Angeles, I can’t see the color screen when I try to read outdoors. There’s no way to read a book on a tablet at the beach, or in the park.
Of course mobile displays for reading in direct sunlight are already available, such as those on Amazon’s Kindle, but they’re only black-and-white, and they refresh at a painfully slow, page-turning speed. Now that a large chunk of my media consumption is in color, these displays don’t cut it. Surely a daytime color display isn’t impossible. With Apple’s spare cash, could a breakthrough be around the corner?
4. Wireless network quality
Before Steve Jobs unveiled the original iPhone in 2007, he and his company pulled off a feat most pundits would have considered impossible: They got AT&T to change the way its voicemail system worked. Instead of forcing users to listen to all messages in order—a throwback to cassette-tape answering machines, and also good for getting customers to run up their minutes—the iPhone let its users view all messages onscreen at once and play only those they tapped.
But iPhone owners still complain bitterly about the quality of wireless service. AT&T drops calls, and Verizon won’t let you make a voice call and use an Internet app at the same time. The audio quality of voice calls on any phone, through any carrier, seems to have gotten worse rather than better. If Apple could fix these issues, iPhone calls could become a premium feature rather than a joke. It might require a multi-billion-dollar investment in wireless network infrastructure, but we know who’s got the money to spend.