Chad Brand at The Peridot Capitalist points out one reason why Apple may have refused to return any of its $18 billion in the form of stock buybacks or dividend payouts: to come out ahead after an economic downturn.
Fortune senior editor Betsy Morris interviewed Apple CEO Steve Jobs in February, and this is what he said in regards to managing the company during an economic downturn:
We’ve had one of these before, when the dot-com bubble burst. What I told our company was that we were just going to invest our way through the downturn, that we weren’t going to lay off people, that we’d taken a tremendous amount of effort to get them into Apple in the first place — the last thing we were going to do is lay them off. And we were going to keep funding. In fact we were going to up our R&D budget so that we would be ahead of our competitors when the downturn was over. And that’s exactly what we did. And it worked. And that’s exactly what we’ll do this time.
Sounds like an excellent strategy to me. When most companies are probably skimping on R&D and trying to cut costs during a downturn, Jobs’ plan seems to guarantee Apple will be further ahead with new products and services that people will want.