If I had 40 Billion Dollars

What should Apple do with their 40 Billion dollars? One of the major driving principles for Apple is control. Apple does not like leaving vital opportunities in the hands of other companies, this is the crux of the battle over Flash.  Previously when Apple was struggling, focus and being lean were clear guidelines that Apple had to follow. Now however, Apple could dedicate some resources to some clear blind areas, and a chance to solidify certain strategic goals.

1. Buy the rights to H.264. Apple clearly is pushing HTML 5 standard which supports displaying video natively over using a Flash plugin . H.264 is the video protocol that both Apple and Google support in Safari and Chrome respectively. IE 9 is even allegedly going to support H.264. The major holdout at this point and it’s a big one is Firefox. Firefox contends that the cost behind licensing H.264 is the primary reason. Apple should negotiate to purchase the rights to H.264 from MPEG-LA and then make it a completely open standard for all browsers (making it open source basically to mix terminology). It’s clear that Apple would not be doing this out of some benevolent need, instead removing the last obstacle to H.264 being accepted as the primary video protocol.

2. iWork Pro- Omnigraffle, Omniplan, OmniOutliner. Okay, this is somewhat a strange wish. Right now the OmniGroup makes 3 top shelf applications for OS X that effectively replace the functionality of Windows Office Professional edition. Omnigraffle can open/edit/export the newest files from MS Visio. OmniPlan can open/edit/export the newest files from MS Project. Omnioutliner is easily the equal of MS Office OneNote. If there was a way for Apple to offer those 3 applications along with their current iWork lineup (Pages, Keynote, and Numbers), then this “Pro” suite would give Apple business users even more cross platform functionality. As good as Omnigroup is, there are probably still millions of Mac users unaware of their high quality apps. Now, I’m not sure if I want Apple to pay Omni to develop the apps still, or purchase the rights outright or some combination of both. Apple marketing and pushing a full anti-Office solution though is a good thing.

3. Outlook plugins for OS X Server. Right now Apple has a great small business server solution in the Mac Mini Snow Leopard Server model. With open source standards for Mail, Calendar, and Address Book, SLS is an excellent Exchange Server replacement, save for one thing. While OS X is a great client for those open standards with Mail, iCal, and Address Book applications, Outlook is not able to take full advantage of iCal or the Address Book features. Windows Users could use Thunderbird and Lightning (Mozilla applications for Email/Address and Calendar), but those applications are not the standard. As bad as it is in some aspects, Outlook is that standard. Now, there are some third party Outlook Plugins that can make Outlook more compliant with SLS. The success and reliablity of those plugins is questionable though. Apple needs to take over this role to be in control over Windows working with SLS. Obviously SLS is not a huge part of Apple’s business but as Mac market share continues to climb making sure Windows machines can fit in a Mac world is all about making Mac standards look good which drives Mac adoption. The obvious counter is that it’s MS’s job to make Outlook more compliant. Microsoft won’t do that unless challenged. It’s not a coincidence that the next version of Office for Mac will come with a full Outlook client after Apple adds OS level Exchange capability into Snow Leopard. When pushed, Microsoft responds.

4. Build two new iPhone beyond the GSM 4th Gen iPhone.  One slider, one CDMA. When Apple was struggling, focus was required and lets be clear I’m not advocating a return to the Peforma 6221, 6215, 5100, 5215 days. Apple has an opportunity to take advantage of their leadership in smartphones to not leave sales for other vendors. Verizon’s use of CDMA is coming to an end in several years they will be on a LTE standard which ATT will also adopt (however, ATT is not moving as fast as Verizon due to their legs left with GSM 3g). A special US market only CDMA 4th generation smartphone just makes sense. In the past, different product and speciality products would have been deadly to the leaner, smarter Apple. By launching a CDMA phone this year, Apple can potentially sell 10 million more iPhones. Verizon’s network reach is larger and their brand is pretty much supported by their customer’s faith in their network. These folks are not leaving ATT due to network coverage and network loyalty. The engineering costs of such a device will not be small, but in terms of the network limitation Apple has already dealt with those limitations with the original EDGE only iPhone. Verizon itself obviously is an issue with the roll-out of this phone, but there’s too much cash for Verizon in new customers and reducing churn of the existing base for these two companies not to reach an agreement (Apple could always pad the device cost to offload the increase design/production cost. The market is there). Apple’s been in the cell phone business for 2 years now, creating a CDMA phone won’t add that much complexity to their processes. Adding an iPhone on Verizon, allows Apple to attack Android’s primary sanctuary. Combined with whatever goodies Apple has in iPhone 4.0 and that combined assault (new hardware, new networks, new OS) could make for a huge year for Apple.  Finally, Apple should sell one slider model. GSM only, one storage size. Just like after an initial launch period car manufacturers offer an automatic version of hot roadsters and coupes, there’s significant population that a physical keyboard is a must have. Apple shouldn’t leave that market for others (primarily Blackberry, a keyboard slider phone by Apple would be a huge threat. Blackberry users are already interested in switching). Add a premium cost to the device, make it a premium device, and offer it only to ATT initially.

5. Build iPhone MobileMe management into Snow Leopard Server- specifically Find my iPhone/Remote Wipe/Messaging/Enable Password. This is far too good idea to sit on the sidelines. SLS already has servers for iCal/Address Book/ and Mail. The iPhone is the perfect small business device with the vast app store. Building in access to manage your iPhones through that SLS is the next logical step. There are already countless stories of how “Find me iPhone” has saved customers, extending that capability to users of SLS just adds value to the system. The other admin features such as Remote Wipe/Enable password also make too much sense for remote administration via a SLS client.

6. Make sure iPhone is as good a Snow Leopard Server platform as it is an Exchange platform. This is a small point but right now the iPhone does not support the Address Server protocol that ships with SLS while it does support the Exchange server address book. Now the iPhone does support Active Directory, but the CardDAV server protocol (the address book cousin to iCal’s CalDAV) is not supported. It will probably be added as a capability in iPhone OS 4, but it should have been added when Snow Leopard Server shipped.

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