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Apple Businesses

Apple Now Debt Free, Says Internal Memo 627

An anonymous reader writes "99mac.se publishes an internal memo from Steve Jobs to Apple employees today. According to the Memo, Jobs states that "Today is a historic day of sorts for our company." Apple used $300 million in cash to pay off the rest of their debt, and is now a debt-free company. A big turnaround from over $1 billion in debt in mid-1997. Also noted in the memo is that Apple has $4.8 billion in the bank at this time." (Since this is not coming straight from Apple, confirmation -- or debunking -- would be helpful.)
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Apple Now Debt Free, Says Internal Memo

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  • want confirmation? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @02:09PM (#8318259)
    when's their next SEC filing deadline?
  • Because.. (Score:5, Funny)

    by LilGuy ( 150110 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @02:09PM (#8318267)
    They didn't make a game console that doesn't make money.
    • Re:Because.. (Score:5, Informative)

      by sydsavage ( 453743 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @02:15PM (#8318349)
      You've obviously never heard of Pippin [worldhistory.com].
    • Re:Because.. (Score:5, Informative)

      by Kenja ( 541830 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @02:15PM (#8318359)
      Yes they did. It was called the Pippin [macgeek.org] and was relased by Bandai. It did very bad in the US and Japanese markets. It booted MacOS 7 off of a CD (no internal storage) so, while it could run any Macintosh game, the game had to be built with an OS image on the CD.
      • In other words (Score:4, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @02:28PM (#8318539)
        They developed a game console that didn't make money, but they weren't stupid enough to make it.
      • Re:Because.. (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Wyatt Earp ( 1029 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @02:37PM (#8318644)
        "The game had to be built with an OS image on the CD."

        That would be easy, I used to have a 7.5.5 boot CD and if I remember right, that stripped down System Folder took up all of about 30 MB with full network functionality.

        Once we made a System 7.1 boot floppy with Appletalk and I don't remember what else so that we could dasiy-chain Performa 5xx series machines with the old LocalTalk boxes and phone cords and reformated 14 of them at a time from my G3 AIO.

    • by perdelucena ( 455667 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @02:16PM (#8318370) Homepage
      "Apple [...] is now a debt-free company."

      One more prof that Apple is still dying...
  • by Raleel ( 30913 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @02:09PM (#8318268)
    Particularly other hardware and software firms?
    • by krog ( 25663 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @02:13PM (#8318333) Homepage
      How does this compare? Favorably.
    • by justanyone ( 308934 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @02:18PM (#8318416) Homepage Journal
      So, it seems Apple, like White Castle, among other companies, is debt free.

      However, being debt free is not necessarily a good thing. I was informed by an accounting / MBA friend that having corporate debt can be a very, very good thing when it comes to tax time. Apparently, it's useful to mortgage certain properties (including real estate, physical plant, etc.). This lets you write down things or depreciate them differently I think.

      I'm sure there's accountants out there (though how many of them read Slashdot is an open question). Can anyone explain this? Or Refute it?

      -- Kevin J. Rice, programmer (not accountant!), Chicago area.
      • by MadCow42 ( 243108 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @02:27PM (#8318529) Homepage
        Also, debt reduces the cost of capital for a company (i.e. the return expected on money used).

        If I were to invest $10 in a new research effort, if it were "borrowed" money the cost of capital would be only the interest on that $10 until I expected the research to pay back $10.

        However, if that $10 came from my debt-free bank account, my shareholders would expect a certain rate of return on that investment which is typically much higher than interest rates are right now (which is why people invest in stocks in the first place, they're higher risk, but they expect higher returns).

        Typically, cost of capital can be 15%, 20%, or more depending on the industry and stock performance. Borrowed money is cheap.

        • Yes, debt does reduce the cost of capital because every $1 of new equity will cost you an expected value of $1 (if it were higher, people would bid up the stock price; if it were lower, nobody would buy the stock). Every $1 of debt will cost you interest (typically less than 100%, so maybe $0.05). The reason why people ever issue equity over debt is that you can typically raise much more money more more easily in the stock market than at a bank. Put yourself on the market and millions of people might contribute equity, looking to get some of the profits, and they'll do it (essentially) no questions asked, as long as you pad their wallets. If you get some debt, you'll have to deal with restrictions, you'll have to keep some amount of cash in the bank, the bank could liquidate your assets and shut you down .... In short, with equity, if you screw up (within the law) nothing bad will happen to you beyond that -- shareholders lose money, sell their stock, oh well. With debt, if you screw up it's a big hassle, banks can sell your stuff, assume management, etc. Risk of bankruptcy is the only reason why equity is ever issued.

          So if Apple's not at risk of bankruptcy (they're not), they should have no problem finding cheap debt to invest. In this case, I think it's foolish for Apple to pay it's debt off.

          Plus, the interest you pay on debt is tax deductible itself (as an expense) and that's just an extra bonus to load up on debt (assuming you can afford it, and aren't at risk of failing).
          • by lhbtubajon ( 469284 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @10:54PM (#8323091)
            What you say is true, all else being equal.

            However, you fail to consider the intangible benefits of being able to show investers that you went from $1 billion in debt to no debt whatsoever.

            In 1997 Apple was in very bad shape, and investors and consumers were distancing themselves from the potential for losses and orphaned technology.

            There is now a great reassurance to people who might buy Apple products that the company is recovered fully, will exist indefinitely, and can be safely counted upon.

            Jobs likely expects the benefits to outweigh any loss of financial opportunity here.
      • by spleck ( 312109 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @02:54PM (#8318839)
        Did anyone else notice that one of the posts said their debt was DUE in February 2004. They didn't just go and pay off a loan. They met their contractual obligations to repay debt.

        It's up to the finance guys to say, "Hey, we can borrow another $300 mill for 5% while we're making 6% on our investments." If they can't say that, then they won't borrow more money unless they need it.
      • by nelsonal ( 549144 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @03:25PM (#8319160) Journal
        Debt is leverage, it amplifies your returns to owners. This is great if you do well, but it is bad if you do poorly. Most people experience this when with mortgages (because of a ton of very favorable laws and a reasonably good housing market since wwII lenders will give an amazing amount of leverage on a house). Which is why they thing real estate is such a good investment, houses have actually been out performed by most other asset classes, but nothing else allows the same measure of leverage.
        For a simple example lets look at buying stock on margin. Take Microsoft, let's say Bill and Steve each have $1000 to invest in MS and the current share price is $25. Bill chooses to buy 40 shares for $1000 (ignoring commissions), while steve listened to his MBA friend and bought 80 shares, taking a loan for $1000 and puting up his own $1000. The next day MS comes out better than expected earnings and the price pops to $30 per share. Both sell their stock. Bill gets $1200 (40x$30) while Steve gets $1400 (80x30-1000) I'm rounding off the $0.11 in interest expenses.
        Now if the news had been bad, and the stock fell to $20, the opposite would have happened, Bill would have $800 (40x$20), while Steve would have $600 (80x$20-1000), again ignoring the $0.11 in daily interest.
        With debt financing you multiply the regular returns by the inverse of the percentage you put up. (If you put up one fifth of the intial capital you will recieve five times the return on the asset (before interest expenses), if it returns 10% annually the owner will get more like 50% annually, if it returns -5% annually, the owner will get -25% annually (again before interest expenses). In our examples above the asset returned 20% but due to the differences in financing the investors got very different returns.
        Armed with this knowledge the optimal situation would be nearly no owner investment and almost all debt financing, assuming an investment is likely to produce returns. However, lenders will require a higher interest rate to projects that have less owner investment decreasing the returns (the asset must return more than the interst rate for this to work, it becomes increasingly difficult to find investments that will do this. In the stock market there are regulations limiting you to debt equal to your starting capital, and if you start to loose money the broker will issue a call requireing either additonal investments or he will sell your asset to bring it back in line with the rules. With a big successful company lenders stop at about 3/4 of total investment (3:1 leverage). Houses allow a ton of leverage (the old rules were for 20% (5:1 leverage) down but I know of people who put less than 10% down (10:1 leverage). Feel free to ask any further questions, this format is not ideal for math topics
    • by nelsonal ( 549144 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @02:49PM (#8318767) Journal
      Most technology firms are not in debt, or carry a token amount. There are three major reasons for this. First, successful technology firms generally mint money. Dell, Intel, MS, Oracle, and a whole host of others generated well over 1 billion in cash last year (and the year before, and before, etc), so they can fund expansion projects with retained cash. Second equity buyers have been happy to give them money with no expectation for a dividend for an increasingly small part of the company. Effectivly share increases mean that investors are willing to accept a smaller part of the company for the same amount of money. Finally, the rating agencies (the companies that issue opinions about how risky debt is, which are used by lenders to establish the rate at which they will loan money for) treat technology firms like late paying poor people. My personal rule of thumb is that technology firms will have a rating at least 3 notches or one full grade below a company with the same credit statistics in any other industry. Credit agencies look at a host of ratios for the basis of a rating. Two examples are Apple and Oracle both have well more than 10 times more cash than debt, and both have a long history of generating relativly stable operating cash, (more important to lenders than profits). If they operated in any other industry they would be at least AA (credit ratings go down from AAA, AA, A, BBB, BB, B, CCC, CC, C with + and - modifers on each rating, and D is a special rating for in default, ie not paying even the interest on the debt and no modifers). BB is the beginning of junk bonds. Apple's credit rating was BB and Oracle's was A-, to give you an some comparisons Qwest is B (they were touch and go on bankruptcy for the better part of 2002 and 2003). MS would likely not get a AAA rating with almost 60 billion in cash, and a two decade history of positive cash flows. Generally the rating agencies perceive a ton of operational risk in all firms that are involved in technology.
  • $4.8 billion (Score:5, Informative)

    by UberChuckie ( 529086 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @02:10PM (#8318275) Homepage
    Is that cash reserves or for daily operation? Huge difference.
  • by Nathan Brazil ( 13299 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @02:10PM (#8318276) Homepage Journal
    With interest rates as low as they are right now, shouldn't they be borrowing and investing more in the future, or some such economic technobabble like that? Cash in the bank can't be giving them as much growth as investment would...

    Though cash in the bank is very safe, at least.
    • by Ranger96 ( 452365 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @02:14PM (#8318337)
      Even more to the point, if the interest Apple was paying on the debt was lower than the return they could make investing the $300M, then (everything else being equal), this wasn't the best use of their cash.

      However, there are too many variables for a non-insider to really know. Most companies have finance people who are at least competent enough to make these kinds of decisions. This is Finance 101 stuff.

  • Lets see... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by FortKnox ( 169099 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @02:10PM (#8318277) Homepage Journal
    The crashing success of iTunes, and iPods? Along with OS X and the resurgence of the iMacs? I don't think its that hard to accept that they are now in the black.
    • Re:Lets see... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by SpamJunkie ( 557825 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @02:17PM (#8318390)
      This isn't being in the black. Being in the back means being profitable and they've been profitable long before now. This isn't a sign of business strength either, since many companies keep some debt around just so they have some flexibility when it comes to reporting their financials.

      This is more of a business decision to run a debt-free company. With 4.8 billion cash on hand they could have been debt free before now.
  • by SuDZ ( 450180 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @02:11PM (#8318296)
    Now that they are out of debt I wonder what the percentages of the income were. For example was the new OS's able to give 20% of that, the iPod good for 40% etc. What about iTunes? I know I just picked those %'s out of the air and have no way of guessing what they might be but what do you guys think helped them get into the clear?

  • debunk (Score:5, Funny)

    by fjordboy ( 169716 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @02:11PM (#8318300) Homepage
    I can debunk it right now - Steve Jobs owes me thousands of dollars for the mental anguish I've experienced when trying to use the imac's original "hockey puck" mouse.
    • Re:debunk (Score:5, Funny)

      by GoofyBoy ( 44399 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @02:25PM (#8318502) Journal
      Do you know how much they've saved with not having to produce or do R&D for a second mouse button?
    • Re:debunk (Score:5, Insightful)

      by SuperBanana ( 662181 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @02:29PM (#8318555)
      Steve Jobs owes me thousands of dollars for the mental anguish I've experienced when trying to use the imac's original "hockey puck" mouse

      Yeah, and your mother owes you millions for dropping you as a child, since those of us who weren't dropped, went to the store and bought a $40 optical scroll-wheel mouse ;-)

      (Sorry, pet peeve for those who complain about the fact that a computer, designed+marketed to be EASY TO USE, comes out of the box with only one mouse button but is perfectly capable of using a fancier one if your heart desires).

      • Re:debunk (Score:5, Insightful)

        by prockcore ( 543967 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @03:47PM (#8319477)
        (Sorry, pet peeve for those who complain about the fact that a computer, designed+marketed to be EASY TO USE, comes out of the box with only one mouse button but is perfectly capable of using a fancier one if your heart desires).

        The hockey puck wasn't hated because it only had one mouse button. It was hated because it wasn't easy to use. It will go down in history as the worst designed mouse ever.
  • by fetus ( 322414 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @02:12PM (#8318311)
    Sometimes overcharging does pay off...
  • Good for everyone (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AvantLegion ( 595806 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @02:13PM (#8318327) Journal
    A healthy Apple is important for the computer industry. Even if you don't use Apples, you benefit from the PC industry's price undercutting of Apple's products. Apple is only "expensive" in the sense that everyone else endeavors to be cheaper.

    Choice is good - including platform choice.

    • Re:Good for everyone (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Jeff DeMaagd ( 2015 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @05:26PM (#8320582) Homepage Journal
      I agree, I think we do need Apple, or at least we did.

      They kickstarted the horribly lagging USB device market. A lot of windows GUI elements seem to come from Apple. Zen seems to be heavily iPod inspired, for all I know, maybe we'd be stuck with ugly Nomads and Nomad clones.

      Before Jobs took over, the PC market looked like a bunch of ugly square beige boxes, since, we now get a bunch of ugly multi-colored varying swoop-shaped windowed boxes. I haven't checked to see if there are any G5 inspired PC cases yet.
  • by SoTuA ( 683507 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @02:13PM (#8318328)
    If found true, this tidbit of information goes to show that market share isn't everything... unless you do business in commodity goods. Apple computers have been always marketed at a niche of people who are aware of the fact that quality & luxury costs a little more. You can be a successful company with only 5% of the market.

    Who needs the market share when you've got a cool 4 billion bucks in the bank, and the mind share - apple equals style and coolness, like it or not.

    Now back to my beige box... :(

  • by blackmonday ( 607916 ) * on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @02:16PM (#8318367) Homepage
    An iPod, a 15 inch PowerBook, iLife '04, Panther... if only I could get debt free. Apple has me hooked, I can't believe how much cash I spend on their products. Well worth it though.

  • by kfg ( 145172 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @02:16PM (#8318373)
    . . .to borrow capital.

  • by oliverk ( 82803 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @02:16PM (#8318378)
    Debt is very good for public companies (in fact it raises the valuation, mainly because of the tax ramifications on debt versus equity issuance). [note: I'm a first year MBA at Georgia Tech...so I'm speaking strictly academically].

    It makes me wonder about Jobs' (or the CFO's) motivations. Strictly speaking, this would be the smartest move if Apple were to pursue a Leverage BuyOut (LBO), which is basically a reverse IPO. I can't see them doing this, but would give them a chance to radically reposition the company without requiring stockholder approval.

    Just thinking out loud...

  • that sounds right (Score:5, Informative)

    by theMerovingian ( 722983 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @02:17PM (#8318388) Journal

    according to their last sec filing, they had 300 million in debt and about 5 billion cash.

    see this for details. [yahoo.com]

  • Addicted to OS X (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MarkWatson ( 189759 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @02:17PM (#8318402) Homepage
    Since I am basically addicted to OS X, this is good news :-)

    Apple has always had pricey, but cool stuff. I paid a premium for my Apple II (serial number 79 !! - I used it to write the free Chess program that was on the demo cassette for the Apple II).

    I paid a premium for my first Mac in 1984.

    Sometimes, more expensive products are just worth it.


  • Buy SCO? (Score:4, Funny)

    by clmensch ( 92222 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @02:18PM (#8318415) Homepage Journal
    Apple should buy SCO, and then drop all lawsuits. They'll "own" Unix (whatever that means), and they can help continue their commitment to the Open Source community.
  • by timbob_com ( 512241 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @02:21PM (#8318437) Homepage
    Here is their last 10-Q [edgar-online.com] they had a total of $2.6 Billion listed as liabilities and about $7 Billion in Assets (with almost $4.8 B being cash or short term investments) So this is definately possible.

    I remember back to something Steve Jobs said back in 97 or 98 when asked how he was going to grow desktop market share. His response was something along the lines of 'We have 6% of the desktop market, Mercedes has 6% of the automobile market. Why aren't you predicting the end of Mercedes?'

    iMac, iPod and iTunes really helped them accumulate some iCash.
  • by delphin42 ( 556929 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @02:22PM (#8318462) Homepage

    According to their balance sheet, they had $3.7B in cash as of Dec 27, 2003. At that time they also had a little over $300M in debt. The numbers add up with what is reported in the story, so I wouldn't say there is any reason to believe it isn't true. I would think that something like this would make a press release, but maybe they are waiting for the market close?
  • by zymurgy_cat ( 627260 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @02:22PM (#8318466) Homepage
    Something to keep in mind is that debt isn't necessarily bad. Many companies use a combination of equity and debt to finance their operations. Sometimes no debt with lots of cash can actually be dangerous, particularly with the ongoing rise in leveraged buyouts. Granted, Apple is probably protected against this since there is very little to be gained by "breaking up" Apple. (I'd wager it's not even possible.)

    It's how a company uses its debt and the amount of debt relative to things like cash flow, equity, etc., that's important.
  • Seems reasonable (Score:5, Informative)

    by Dukael_Mikakis ( 686324 ) <andrewfoerster@NoSpam.gmail.com> on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @02:25PM (#8318496)
    According to recent financial statements [corporate-ir.net] they did have about $302M in debt, and they had plenty ($3B) of "Cash" (or equivalents, which presumedly includes very liquid financial assets), so it seems reasonable that they would have paid it off. To be absolutely sure, I feel that we'd need to wait for the next batch of statements (March).

    What they don't mention is that (of course) they have plenty of accounts payable. Not explicitly debt, they are still liabilities that are owed. No big deal, though, every company's got that.

    I don't understand, though, why they're so eager to get rid of their debt. $300M isn't that much money (when they've got $3B cash, i.e.) and there's nothing wrong with a moderately leveraged firm (debt is of course usable capital, and they've effectively just lost $300M of "project money"), and I don't think that Apple was at any risk of defaulting.

    If this debt was raised long ago (when rates were high), then I figure it's reasonable, but if this debt is recent, then it doesn't explicitly make sense to me (IANACFO), because that's cheap money for ... well, whatever Apple does.

    To me, this seems to be an indication that Apple's going to be a bit more conservative and slow down new projects and products and such. When a company pays off debt, this must mean that interest rates cost more than the returns of the projects this money could finance.

    This ranks Apple right up with Microsoft (since Microsoft started dividends a while back) as cash cow companies. I would be careful about buying.

    Just my thoughts.br.
  • by newdamage ( 753043 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @02:31PM (#8318580) Homepage Journal
    Regardless of your choice of architecture or OS, this news is great for consumers and technology users. I may not use a Mac, but as long as Apple is out there, out of debt, and profitable I don't have to worry about Microsoft having free reign over the direction of the computer industry. XP Pro works fine for me right now when I need to get real work done (sidenote: please, Linux, work completely on laptops soon!), but if Gates & Co. decide to slide farther down some restrictive draconian path of DRM I know that I can switch in a heartbeat.

    We all saw what happened when AMD became a viable competitor for Intel, processor speeds dramatically increased and prices dropped.

    Without Apple continuing to innovate and capture user mindshare we'd all probably be stuck using something along the lines of Windows ME.
  • by octalgirl ( 580949 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @02:31PM (#8318583) Journal

    The article [fool.com]

    "Let's do the math: According to its latest earnings report, Apple averaged $349 in revenue per iPod sold. If prices remain stable, 3 million iPods would generate more than $1 billion in revenue. Four million units could produce $1.4 billion in sales. Apple sold $345 million in iPods during fiscal 2003.

    Turning the dial to iTunes, Apple says that more than 30 million songs have been sold to date, with 17 million of those coming during the Christmas quarter. The Pepsi promotion should dramatically increase iTunes traffic. Add in the help from HP and paid downloads could pass 100 million during 2004. At that level, Apple should make a few pennies per song, up from zero now."
  • by Perl-Pusher ( 555592 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @02:32PM (#8318589)
    One ibook logic board! When I get my ibook back only then will the debt be paid!
  • by Ilan Volow ( 539597 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @02:33PM (#8318603) Homepage
    Steve Jobs must have replied to one of those anonymous e-mails titled "GET OUT OF DEBT NOW".
  • by smart.id ( 264791 ) <jbd AT jd87 DOT com> on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @02:34PM (#8318615) Homepage
    If in fact it is the real memo, InternalMemos.com [internalmemos.com] (from the same people who brought you FuckedCompany) has it. It just looks kind of suspicious because of how short it is, but that very well may be it.
  • by good soldier svejk ( 571730 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @02:45PM (#8318726)

    I guess Fred feels his work is done now, because he is calling it quits on June 1. [apple.com] Anderson has been instrumental in solving Apple's financial problems from the day Gil Amelio hired him in 1996. He created the company's large cash reserves by liquidating unnecessary capital investments (plant), issuing a convertible debenture and selling some of their valuable ARM holdings. Then he managed the investment of those funds astutely enough to make the conversion of those outstanding notes to common stock a huge win for both the company and creditors. [macobserver.com] That 1999 conversion alone eliminated about two thirds of Apple's long term debt (conversely that means the issue had assumed most of Apple's debt). Really, this guy has done an outstanding job. You can thank him for their sound financials.
  • ok, so... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by pb ( 1020 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @02:45PM (#8318727)
    Apple's got like $5 billion in cash lying around, Microsoft has $50 billion or so last I heard... Just to put this into perspective, $50 billion dollars is about $166.67 from every man, woman, and child in the US, or about enough for them each to buy a copy of Windows retail (or almost two upgrade editions or full OEM editions). It's almost equal to the GDP of Iraq in 2002. You could hire a million people full-time with that money and pay them $25/hr for a year. It's a lot of money.

    The profit margin on software is about as high as a profit margin can be, and even when you consider that they spend money on R&D, salaries, advertising, buildings, manufacturing, computers, etc., etc. -- that's still an enormous mark-up from the market value of their products. (They both sell hardware too, and in Apple's case, there's a hefty mark-up on that as well, especially RAM--but not nearly as much as there is on software.)

    So it'll be interesting to see what happens, as Microsoft slashes prices on core offerings to compete with Linux, and newer desktop environments and toolkits are developed across the board to compete with Apple. Still--I don't know about TCO, but there should be no doubt in your mind that these companies are overcharging. :)
  • Correction (Score:5, Insightful)

    by I8TheWorm ( 645702 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @02:54PM (#8318829) Journal
    Just a quick correction (not a Troll... I'm glad they're doing well)...

    Also noted in the memo is that Apple has $4.8 billion in the bank at this time.
    Apple has $4.8 billion in total assets

    Are not synonymous. Assets include buildings, machinery, office equipment, which I'm sure Apple has laying around somewhere...
  • It was me (Score:5, Funny)

    by billstr78 ( 535271 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @02:58PM (#8318876) Homepage
    I bought an iBook on Friday for around $1300 without tax. That must have been the sale that pushed them over the edge.
  • by chriss ( 26574 ) <chriss@memomo.net> on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @03:11PM (#8319017) Homepage

    Maybe you remember the MacExpo keynote from 1997, where Steve Jobs announced that a) Microsoft had aquired shares of Apple worth $US 150 million and b) guaranteed that they would continue to offer MS Office for MacOS for at least another five years. Today this is still recalled by a lot of PC fans as the day Microsoft saved Apple by buying stock. But what most people did not see was that at that time Apple already had several billions in reserve (I think it were four) and the stock Microsoft bought was basically symbolic, the major news was the Office deal. (http://antibogon.org/Stepwise/TheHolyGrail.html [antibogon.org] mentiones that Apple was worth $US 7 billion at that time.)

    So if Apple now claims to be debt free this does not mean at all that they finally earned enought to pay back their debt. They could have done that years ago. It just means that they decided (for some strange fiscal reasons) to pay back everything in 2004 (remember, debt is positive from a tax point of view) and that, as usual, Steve Jobs takes this non-news and transforms it into holy water for the mac users.

    Posted from my blessed iBook

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @03:22PM (#8319137)
    All it took was for Jobs to respond to an email informing him that m0rttgage rattes are at an ALLL T1ME L0W, refnance now!

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  • by mhoward736 ( 193180 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @05:37PM (#8320679)
    Debt is a very useful thing to have if you need extensive capital investment in material things or you need a pool of money to fund the development of an idea.

    If you have no need to do capital investments in things like plant and equipment or buying another company then debt is a BAD thing because you're paying interest and usually more than you'd get investing in a similar risk item.

    Americans seem to have an idea that being in debt is a good thing. For some things like a House which will normally be a long term asset whose value will be more than the total cost of the debt this is an OK idea. For cars and such its usually not a great idea as the asset depreciates very quickly, for computers its even worse. Unless of course you use that asset for something useful like running your business (one of the reasons Graphics people don't care about the cost of a new Mac is that it pays for itself very quickly).

    So lets look at Apple. Their major assets are their people and ideas. If they have enough revenue to continue to pay those people they shouldn't borrow for it. R&D is normally expensive but most of what Apple does is consumer design, software development and (some) assembly. CPU's, Disks etc are all developed by others - sometimes with input from Apple. For these things they don't need extensive physical assets like factories and machinery. They need enough space for everyone to work, and they can get someone else to build/assemble their designs at very little risk to themselves usually.

    This is one of the reasons why tech companies usually have very little debt.

    In Apples case debt would only be good if they needed to acquire another company and believed they could run the acquisition better than the current management or they needed to invest significantly in something else that required a large chunk of change up front.

    Low debt may make a company a takeover target but in Apples case you'd 1. Have to pay a significant premium over the value of their cash assests and 2. be really sure you could run the company better than Steve and his key people. Otherwise you'd be buying a declining asset or looking to put a competitor out of business. Microsoft might like to try but the Anti-trust brigade would have a field day.

    As long as Apple stays profitable and can fund its own R&D internally it doesn't need more debt.
  • by sribe ( 304414 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @05:40PM (#8320701)
    Since this is not coming straight from Apple, confirmation -- or debunking -- would be helpful.

    Well, given that at the announcement of their last quarterly results they stated that they would likely pay off their debt this quarter, it seems likely that this is true.
  • by Infonaut ( 96956 ) <infonaut@gmail.com> on Wednesday February 18, 2004 @06:17PM (#8321098) Homepage Journal
    What happened to all the doom and gloom?

    Where are the Wired magazine articles about how to "save" Apple?

    Where in the hell is Dvorak when you need him?!

Mathemeticians stand on each other's shoulders while computer scientists stand on each other's toes. -- Richard Hamming