White elephant: There's a reason they give this advice away

Macalope

Just like that tacky sweater your mom got you in 1997 that everyone keeps re-gifting, Forbes is the gift that keeps on giving.

And speaking of giving, Eric Jackson doesn’t think Apple should be giving money back to shareholders.

“Apple Returns Cash To Shareholders Because It’s Out Of Ideas On How To Invest It” (indirect link and tip o’ the antlers to weid1)

Jackson, you may recall (if you keep up to date on each outlandish piece of advice for how Apple should light its money on fire), has long suggested that Apple should have bought Twitter. Because social mumble mumble. So, when he says “invest,” what he really means is “blow dramatically on a high-profile vanity purchase with little definable ROI.”

It’s industry shorthand.

They’re shrugging their shoulders and saying, “I know there’s lots of stuff going on right now in the world of tech, but I don’t know how to take this pile of money and turn it into a team of people working on that right now and coming up with a solution to that problem.”

That’s one way of looking at it. The other way of looking at it is “Hey, we’re already pretty good at what we’re doing. If we start making huge, complicated acquisitions we’ll get bogged down in managing complexity instead of making great products.”

Look, Apple doesn’t do everything. They haven’t made an app store for the Apple TV and they don’t make 20 different kinds of MacBooks. Sorry? No, that’s not it. Stop writing ridiculous Apple acquisition slash fiction? That’s more like it.

Because these acquisitions often (maybe even usually) don’t benefit the company acquiring the technology. Just ask HP about Palm or Google about Motorola or the Harkonnens about Arrakis. Who does benefit is the shareholders of the company getting acquired. So, Jackson’s advice here is that instead of returning some of their Smaug-like cash reserves to Apple shareholders, Apple should return it to the shareholders of some other company. Sure, that makes sense. Give it to the shareholders of Twitter or Tesla or... what other crazy companies are pundits recommending Apple buy these days? S.T.A.R. Labs? Stark Industries? Weyland-Yutani?

Some of my critics have concluded that...

The water pipes leading into the Forbes contributor network water cooler are fed from an aquifer with a parasitical infection that causes insanity?

...if Apple stops spending $100 billion every two years returning cash to shareholders, I must be arguing that they should wastefully spend it and directly or indirectly hurt the goose that laid the golden egg at Apple. But why must one follow the other?

It doesn’t necessarily, but who should make the decision of where the cutoff is? Tim Cook or dude who writes for the Forbes contributor network? Plus this counterpoint would be easier to swallow if dude who writes for the Forbes contributor network wasn’t suggesting Apple try to swallow giant hunks of uncut sirloin like Twitter and Tesla.

Jack Ma of Alibaba said it best recently when describing how to run a successful company over the long-term: It’s customer first, employee second, and shareholder third.

You’re arguing that Apple, the company with one of the highest customer satisfaction ratings outside of the Nevada sex-worker industry, is not valuing its customers high enough? Well... that’s... a thing... you can say... and not... summarily explode from ridiculousness? Apparently? The Macalope wouldn’t have thought that, but he didn’t hear any huge BANG so he assumes Jackson is still reasonably intact.

The problem with this “you gotta spend money to make money” line of thinking is that Apple built that cash reserve by not spending its money on huge acquisitions. If Apple is “out of ideas” on how to spend its money, then it never had any ideas in the first place, otherwise it wouldn’t have accumulated all the money. See how that works? Apple became the largest tech company by focusing. In other words, its current level of success is already the perfect object lesson against what Jackson is arguing for.

“Hey, San Francisco Giants. Noticed you won the World Series. But I think you could win even more Worldses Series by not being so good at the baseball. Ever think of that?” — the Forbes contributor network’s baseball analyst.

Is there some way to opt out of this white elephant exchange? Because the Macalope keeps getting the same lousy gift.

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