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Apple's $98B Can Do Lots of Things

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    Tim Cook, who took over for Jobs as CEO, had a stunning fourth quarter last year -- his first as CEO.

    In the Apple earnings call on Tuesday, everyone got to hear that Apple has about $98 billion in cash -- but should the tech company continue to save or do something radically different? Here are some possible ways Apple could use its cash surplus.

    Pay a stock dividend. We wrote about chief executive Tim Cook mulling over a stock dividend last November, but that never materialized. Steve Jobs was against the idea of a dividend or stock buyback because his philosophy was that money should always go back into the company, even if it was just as a pile of cash. Cook has no such philosophy, so why shouldn't he reward shareholders? Unfortunately, Cook didn't OK the dividend when Apple had more than $80 billion in cash, so his mind may not change at $98 billion.

    Buy a controlling interest in Facebook. At an estimated $100 billion valuation (and that's on the high side,) Facebook could be up for grabs. Apple could almost own the company at its initial public offering -- to crush or maintain at its leisure. Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg is a fan of Apple and Steve Jobs, but it's unknown if he would like to be told what to do by Apple execs.

    Cut prices on iPhones, iPads and every other device. With so much cash, Apple doesn't need to charge its sky-high prices, according to the International Business Times. This would also make Apple hardware more competitive in developing country's where an unlocked $649 iPhone 4S or $499 iPad 2 is out of reach for most people.

    Buy Cisco Systems. The Silicon Valley tech company makes Internet equipment, and more to the point, television transmission equipment and set-top boxes. What better way to help Apple TV get to the next level?

    Pay lawyers to keep working on its myriad of lawsuits. Apple is still busy suing Samsung for patent infringement (and defending itself from the counter-suit,) trying to legally strong-arm Amazon to drop its App Store name and is in the middle of numerous class-action suits from colluding with book publishers to allegedly faulty equipment. We all wish that Apple wasn't such a weenie about lawsuits, but because it has an expensive legal team it's able to intimidate smaller and less wealthy companies. Without such a legal team, Apple would have a tougher time competing in the market.

    Anything we missed? Feel free to add to our list in the comments section below.