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Tuesday, October 19, 2010, 01:00 pm PT (04:00 pm ET)

Steve Jobs: Apple will use $51B for big moves, not 'stupid' ones

Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs hinted this week that his company is eyeing a few major acquisitions with its massive $51 billion in cash, with just "one or more" deals possible in the near future, rather than a spending spree.

In his appearance during Apple's conference call for the fourth fiscal quarter of 2010, Jobs was asked by analyst Tony Sacconaghi of Bernstein Research what his company plans to do with its $51 billion in cash and reserves. The analyst inquired whether Apple would return some of the money to investors in the form of a dividend, a possibility that Jobs dismissed as always.

"We strongly believe one or more strategic opportunities will come along we're in a unique position to take advantage of," Jobs said. "We don't let the cash burn a hole in the pocket or make stupid acquisitions. We'd like to continue to keep our powder dry because we think there are one or more strategic opportunities in the future."

Jobs' comments have led to speculation as to what kind of company Apple could be looking to buy. Given Jobs' reported recent meeting with Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive of social networking site Facebook, a potential deal between the two has been presented as a possibility.

Peter Kafka of MediaMemo suggested that such a deal could be a good fit for Apple and its stash of $51 billion in cash, given Apple's desire to fend off Google.

"It's a company that has yet to compete with or brush up against Apple in any significant way," he wrote. "And it's one that Apple seems unlikely to be able to move aside, even if it wanted to. And it's one that's already competing directly with Google, which has to make Jobs like it even more."

Apple has shown a great deal of patience with its cash and reserves, despite the fact that analysts and investors have attempted to push the company on the subject. In February, at an annual shareholder meeting, Jobs said Apple would use the money for "big, bold" risks. At the time, its war chest was at $40 billion.

But Apple has made a number of relatively small key acquisitions in recent years, including two digital mapping companies (Placebase and Poly9), personal assistant software developer Siri, chipmaker Intrinsity, and digital streaming music service Lala.

While the benefits of many of those purchases have not yet been fully realized in Apple's products, the company's acquisition of Quattro Wireless in early 2010 paved the way for the launch of the iAd mobile advertising network in July. Apple has said it expects iAds to take up half of the mobile ad market by the end of 2010.