Apple's Cash Horde Fuels MacBook Speed - and Growth

| About: Apple Inc. (AAPL)

By Carl Howe

Back in the olden days of Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), these changes in their product line would have warranted an event or at least a Webcast. Now, they show up in the Apple Store with nary a press release. For those who don't keep before and after screenshots of the Apple Store, both the MacBook Pro and MacBook product lines got little speedbumps in their processor speeds, front-side busses, and for the MacBook, integrated graphics processors.. How little? The high-end MacBook went from a 2.16 GHz dual-core to a 2.2 GHz dual core, and the front-side bus went from 677 MHz to 800 MHz. And the MacBook Pro actually didn't move at all with its basic specs, but now adds a 2.6 GHz processor option for $250.

Personally, I think Apple simply announced the upgrades to maintain its iron grip on the fastest Windows Vista notebook category.

But seriously, it's easy to forget that one of the reasons that Apple moved to Intel processors was because it could guarantee it wouldn't be left in the dust by Intel's relentless drive for more GHz and processor speed. So far, the plan seems to be working out for Apple. And in fact, there's evidence to suggest that Apple's obsession with having the best Intel parts for its holiday lineup may be causing an Intel processor shortage for other laptop vendors.

Bryan Gardiner at Wired Magazine quoted my view Wednesday that Apple uses its near-$16 billion cash horde to guarantee supplies of product-critical parts, such as it did with its $1.2 billion purchase of flash memory back in 2005. In my opinion, Apple may be using that same "cash on the barrel head" prepayment leverage to guarantee supplies of premium Intel parts going into the holiday season. And with Apple's newfound Intel and Windows-capable platforms, if you're a buyer who wants the best and fastest laptop, and only Apple has the fastest parts in stock, you're not going to wait for the same part to be available from HP, Dell, or Acer. You're going to buy from Apple -- or at least that's what Apple finance is counting on. You know what? I think they're right.

Full disclosure: the author owns Apple stock.

Disclosure: the author owns Apple stock.