In a recent column, my Apple Core colleague Jason O'Grady offers some suggestions where Apple could spend it's $25B in cash. He pointed to some consumer content companies, such as Tivo.
Fine ideas. On the other hand, I can imagine Apple driving up its longterm value with some moves in the professional market.
At the top of the list would be Autodesk Inc. This is the major design software for engineering and manufacturing, as well as offering products for both 2D and 3D work in media and entertainment markets.
Like Apple's approach to its customers and markets, Autodesk provides software platforms rather than technologies. While Autodesk products would be hit by a downturn in manufacturing in a worldwide recession, the company's products are business-critical applications that will grow as the economy recovers.
This purchase would certainly fill in some gaps in the high-end Mac OS content creation/film and animation production tools (think Autodesk 3ds Max). And the CAD industry would finally get the choice of a Mac edition of Autodesk. This move would be a great enterprise play for the Mac OS and support sales of Mac Pros and MacBook Pros.
Next on my list would be some bolstering of Windows virtualization on the Mac platform. There doesn't appear to be a way to pry Fusion out of VMware (or out of EMC to be more accurate) but Parallels is a young company (almost 10 years old) with only one round of venture behind it.
I know this move would be a mixed message to Mac developers and to the community. After all, Mac users want Mac applications. And Apple wants to sell its development environment, which also supports its important mobile platforms.
Still, Macs need to play well in the enterprise and running Windows programs without a hit in performance or in compatibility is essential.
In addition, Vista compatibility on the Mac -- even with Boot Camp -- continues to be troublesome for many enterprise and SMB customers. No matter how much Apple's Mac vs PC advertising campaign wants to slam Vista, Macs must be able to run it perfectly.
Finally, Apple needs to pay more attention to its Mail client and to compatibility with Microsoft Exchange. Entourage 2008 works better than before, but it's not the answer. Is there a company that Apple could buy to fix this problem? Eudora fanatics would suggest buying it from Qualcomm.
Perhaps Apple should buy Microsoft's Mac Business Unit and gain access to all the licenses and APIs that are needed to really make a cross-platform Exchange Server solution work? That's an idea!