Stuck at Home, Apple Is Binge-Buying – Inc.

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While the world continues to struggle with the coronavirus outbreak, Apple, which has been criticized for years for not spending enough of its cash on acquisitions, is starting to flex that muscle and make some purchases.

In just the past week, Apple has closed in on three acquisitions. The company kicked off last week’s buying spree with the acquisition of DarkSky, a popular weather app that has been widely viewed as the best weather app in the industry. After the acquisition, Apple promptly shuttered potential new Android users’ access to the app by removing it from the Google Play marketplace.

On Friday, Bloomberg reported that Apple had quietly acquired another startup, called Voysis, that uses artificial intelligence to improve digital voice assistant performance in shopping apps. It’s unclear what Apple might want with the company, but suffice it to say that the technology will likely play a role in improving Apple’s virtual assistant Siri.

Now Apple is also reportedly acquiring NextVR, a company that has been combining virtual reality and live events to create a more engaging entertainment experience, according to 9to5Mac. As of this writing, that acquisition hasn’t been confirmed, but most experts say the possible $100 million acquisition is all but done.

Either way, Apple is clearly looking to spend. And why not? The company has been patiently waiting for an opportunity to use its massive cash hoard to grow its business, and that time may have finally come.

Indeed, over the last several years, analysts, market watchers, and pundits have all questioned why Apple hasn’t made big acquisitions. A slew of possible buys have been touted, ranging from a major film studio to some of Apple’s biggest competitors. And yet, Apple has been surprisingly patient with its $200 billion cash hoard.

Sure, it acquired Intel’s chip business and a variety of startups in recent years, but it’s continued to put cash in the bank without any major, blockbuster acquisitions. 

With the coronavirus outbreak throwing world economies into turmoil, and with no certainty about how things will shape up when the threat subsides, Apple now has the unique opportunity to capitalize. And with the economy pushing valuations down and creating more motivated sellers, Apple can buy companies for pennies on the dollar.

Of course, the notoriously secretive Apple isn’t talking about its plans, and there’s reason to believe that it may hold off a bit longer as the dust to settles before it continues its acquisition spree.

But I don’t see a better opportunity than now for Apple to pounce. With more than enough cash in the bank and plenty of companies now seeking help, Apple can be the company to provide some of them with a major acquisition or a cash infusion.

Either way, look for Apple to continue its purchasing spree. At this point, a handful of companies are out of Apple’s price range. Apple knows it, and those companies know it. And that’s precisely why Apple’s 2020 and 2021 could be remembered as the years the company transformed its business through acquisitions and fundamentally prepared itself for a world where the iPhone will no longer be its most important focus.

Published on: Apr 6, 2020

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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