Tim Cook: Apple Won’t Acquire Unless It Needs To

Tim Cook says Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) has looked at more than one large company in the past as a potential acquisition target, but that none passed the test.

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The chief executive, speaking at the Goldman Sachs technology conference on Tuesday, was answering a question on whether there was something about Apple’s culture that turned it against the concept of large acquisitions. Apple has been criticized for not making its $137 billion in cash holdings work by either buying companies or returning cash to investors.

“We have looked at large companies,” Cook said. “In each case, it didn’t pass our test. We will look at more, I think. But we’re disciplined and thoughtful, and we don’t feel a pressure to go out and acquire revenue. We want to make great products. If a large company could help us, then that would be of interest. But again, deliberate, thoughtful, is our mantra.”

According to Cook, Apple picks acquisition targets based on opportunity and that the company was instead on the hunt for looking for small deals to help it control the primary technologies behind its products.

“If you look at the last three years, we’ve averaged about an acquisition every other month,” he said. “They’re companies where they have really smart people, and, or, intellectual property. Generally speaking we’ve been in many cases taken something that they’re working on and move the skills to work on something else.”

Cook cited the example of P.A. Semi, a chipmaker Apple acquired in 2008, as an example of acquiring useful talent. According to Cook, engineers at that company were at the time working on PowerPC, and while Apple did not care about the technology, it wanted the same talent to work on engines that power iOS devices through the A-series chips.

The Apple executive added that he felt Apple’s culture of innovation was stronger than ever before. The company has received a lot of flak lately for seemingly losing its grip on the title of the world’s tech innovator and falling behind rivals such as Samsung (SSNLF.PK).

“If you look at skills, Apple is in a unique and unrivaled position,” Cook said. “Apple has skills in software, in hardware, and in services. The model of the PC industry, that model’s not working for what consumers want today. Consumers want an elegant experience where the technology flows to the background. The real magic happens at the intersection of these, and Apple has the ability on all three of these spheres to innovate like crazy.”

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