It has been popularly reported that Apple has more than $100 billion in cash. The amount is actually $138 billion, and the number doesn't describe cash, but instead the value of assets. Apple actually only has about $10 billion in cash. The rest is expected to be placed, for varying lengths of time, in investments. To understand what this means, we need to define a couple of terms.
When a company makes an investment with its cash reserve, it usually buys what are called marketable securities. Marketable securities are usually broken up into three categories: cash equivalents, short term marketable securities, and long term marketable securities. (A security is a thing that represents ownership of something with value. A share of a company sold on the stock market is a security, and so is a bond. The fact that a security is “marketable” just means that it can be put onto a market, like the stock market, and sold for cash.)
Cash equivalents are investments made by a company in very low-risk places that can be easily converted into cash within 90 days. These securities are considered by public investors and the SEC to be essentially cash. Apple has $10.3 billion in cash and cash equivalents.
Short term marketable securities are investments that have maturation dates (meaning the dates at which they are expected to be liquidated) within 12 months. Apple has $19.8 billion in short term securities.
Long term marketable securities are investments that have maturation dates in a timeframe longer than 12 months. Most public companies hold a large percentage of long term securities outside of the United States to avoid taxes when they mature. Apple has $67.4 billion in long term securities.
Taking the above numbers into account, and based on Apple's predictions, the company can spend $10-30 billion dollars within the next 90 days and $30+ billion dollars in the next twelve months. That leaves $67 billion predicted to be used in the far future and probably located out of the US.
Securities held by corporations as assets are shown both by type of instrument and by “intent” of the holding. In this case, the types of instruments shown on the latest 10-Q  are, as the post describes, cash and cash equivalents, short-term securities and long-term securities. But that only applies to the security itself, not Apple's intent: a 30 year government bond would be classified as “long term,” but it could easily be sold tomorrow in one of the most liquid financial markets in the world.
On page 7 of Apple's most recent 10-Q filing, the vast majority of holdings are reported to be in US Treasuries and corporate bonds, which can be liquidated immediately.
1. The vast majority of Apple's money is held in long term securities that are not predicted to be liquidated for at least 12 months. [See update above.]
2. A lot of Apple's holdings are being held overseas; importing that money back into the United States for any significant purchase or disbursement would create an enormous tax burden.
3. There are no strategic acquisition targets that Apple would announce publicly on a Monday morning before the market opens. Any strategic purchases would almost certainly be done behind the scenes and then described later. If Apple were to invest in Samsung's display company spinoff, it would probably not announce it to the world in a press release; it might announce it during a quarterly earnings conference call. There is precedent for this in Apple's past.
4. There are very few external acquisition targets with values in the multiple billions of dollars that would make sense for Apple. Apple tends toward vertical integration. Regardless, the most likely targets, I think, are Vizio (not likely to be announced tomorrow; it would give away their plans), Netflix (very likely), or Hulu (not likely).
Taking into account these four issues, I see two likely outcomes for tomorrow: either Apple will announce a stock buyback program, which would make a lot of sense financially (and would probably be a better investment than any of their current short term securities), or they will announce a dividend, which is something Apple has not done for a decade.
There are always the unlikely outcomes, though. And those are the most exciting.
DISCLOSURE I have positions in the following companies mentioned in this article: Apple, Netflix.
Before Mountain Lion Developer Preview 2, Mac apps could access your contacts at any time, without asking for permission. You wouldn't even know it was happening. This policy is the same as the one on iOS, which recently got a lot of attention. Today's release of DP 2 removes that ability by default. When an app attempts to access contacts for the first time, the following dialog is displayed:
There is also a new area of System Preferences, under Privacy, for managing apps that have contacts access permissions:
While writing the documentation for The Markdown Mark, I created a very simple framework to help standardize the process of defining a brand. It's fairly rudimentary, and it currently only focuses on defining the visual brand, but it integrates lessons I have learned in the past while working with companies that didn't have clear brand documents.
The Open Brand is a framework for clearly and properly defining a brand (currently, the visual brand). It aims to help open source projects, companies, and people develop brand definitions that can be used properly, developed quickly, and referenced consistently.
Because of its structure, the Open Brand can be used by stakeholders possessing any level of design experience.
Pixel-fitted PNGs You should always include pixel-fitted PNGs at every common or useful size to prevent non-designers from improperly resizing parts of the logo or mark and creating artifacts from poor automatic anti-aliasing.
Pixel-fitting is a technique used to reverse the artifacts caused by automatic anti-aliasing when resizing images. I will be publishing an in-depth article about pixel-fitting to http://dcurt.is in the very near future.
Definitions as PSD The vast majority of people do not have Illustrator, so you should define your brand using PSDs containing vector shapes. The PSD format is widely readable by just about anyone who would need to reference the brand.
The spec as a deterrent No one should manually recreate your logo or mark, but many people will make poor attempts to do so. Unfortunately, it just happens. However, using and displaying a mathematical specification document that clearly defines how the brand was built serves as a deterrent to people who feel the need to modify, change, or recreate the brand mark. (It's also necessary for internal use, for future extensibility.)
If you tell people that your brand is particular, and that it comes as a result of a lot of thinking, they might respect it more. Flaunting the spec is just the first part of that process.
Extensible vectors in SVG SVG is a very powerful XML-based format for defining vector shapes. Because its vectors are defined with raw text, SVG works very well with source control systems like Git. It is also an open format and does not rely on expensive graphics software.
The Open Brand template is currently very simple, but it will improve hugely in the future. To be considered complete, it needs to include more detailed documentation on brand usage, typographic styles, the preferred tone of copy and communication, and a company vision manifesto. Hopefully these improvements will come alongside external open source contributions.
We started Milk Inc. (the company behind Oink) to rapidly build and test out new ideas. Oink was our first test and, in preparing to move onto the next project, we've decided to shut it down to help focus our efforts.
This is awesome. The worst state for a startup is mediocrity. It kills creativity and, eventually, is the ultimate cause of company death. Being able to fail quickly, and to honestly acknowledge it openly, is an extremely admirable quality.
I'm making something that uses Markdown, and there's currently no great universal symbol for identifying Markdown support. So I created one.
You should use this mark to identify user input areas which support Markdown-compiled HTML output or to identify general Markdown support. See the “Usage” section in the Markdown Mark documentation on Github.