Them's fightin' words indeed, as Wall Street Journal financial columnist Brett Arends says Jobs is inappropriately hoarding cash instead of returning some to Apple shareholders, and that the behavior of some Apple zealots proves his theory that "the stupidest people own the smartest phones." Well, flame on, Brett!
What's the right balance for Apple—or any other tech company—as it looks build up a significant war chest in these highly acquisitive times while also rewarding loyal shareholders that have helped make Apple and Jobs phenomenally successful and wealthy?
Do Apple's owners, many of whom project a devotion to Jobs and Apple that sits somewhere between the merely rabid and the unconditionally fanatic, want their brilliant and quirky CEO ("I didn't know what stock options were") to push the company's cash stockpile beyond its current $30 billion to be ready to buy great young companies that will enhance Apple's mythical status? If so, how much cash does Apple need to buy great young companies—wouldn't $30 billion seem to be about enough?
Or is chairman Steve looking beyond the small fish to some big ones: movie companies, animation companies, music companies, concert halls, TV studios, car companies, media companies, wireless companies, or maybe even another global icon with an unconventional CEO: Nike? Then it'd be really, really easy to synch up your iTouch with your Apple running shoes.
Or maybe Steve Jobs wants do a Richard Branson and establish a new kind of transportation empire called Apple Jetlines, with service to Apple Space Stations coming soon to an iRocketPod near you?
The cash-stash seems to rest on the strategic arc Jobs has in mind for his company. And since Apple guards its strategy about as tight as two coats of cheap paint, we probably shouldn't expect to see too much detail on any of that. But here's what got Arends so upset: