I was just reading some speculation about the rumored Apple Tablet, i.e. iSlate and had this thought about the “use case we’re missing”. Apple builds value by owing the whole experience and stack (hardware to software). As the cloud becomes more important to the mobile use case, will they look to own that as well?First of all, Apple could easily purchase a robust, nationwide data network with available cash. Sprint’s Market Cap at close of trading on 12/24/2009 was $10.51 Billion. Apple’s cash equivalents at the end of their last quarter was $34 Billion. With the debt on Sprint’s balance sheet, a leveraged buyout could happen without significant depletion of Apple’s cash reserves.
So it is financially feasible, but the real question is why?
Data Network for media.
Always on Cloud
Once Apple controls its network, moving application data to the cloud becomes an integrated experience for the user. The concept of a “Documents” folder could move to the cloud for access from your iPhone, iSlate, or iMac. If you don’t like off-site storage, “Back to My Mac” takes on a whole new meaning.
As soon as the AT&T exclusivity for the iPhone ends, Apple could migrate a large number of iPhone users to a 4.0 device running on their own network. The recurring fees and subscriber increase could bolster the “former Sprint” earnings immediately and give Apple 2 years of revenue to further build out its strategic offers leveraging the network.
On the Negative Side
Of course, Apple has been pretty consistent in playing to its strengths of hardware and software, so this may be a pretty big stretch from them. Taking on the management of a 3rd place wireless provider may not be up Steve’s ally. Of course, everyone seems to be speculating on what industry he will re-invigorate next, so maybe it’s not totally crazy.
Just a Thought
So this is just idle speculation on my part, but I can’t help but think that all of the pundits are missing something in their Apple Tablet speculation. Adding a “always on” network to the mix with Apple’s penchant for total control would seem to make a new type of media/mobile device much more appealing. What do you think?