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Apple "awash in cash" as Microsoft offers "buckets" to Zune developers


As debt-free Apple has accrued a massive $31.1 billion in cash and investments, Microsoft allegedly recently offered one developer "a bucket of money" to write software for the new Zune HD.

Apple's massive cash flow is a number up 27 percent from a year prior and the largest net-cash sum of any technology company. Highlighted in a new report from The Wall Street Journal, the total, as of June 27, is lower than tech rivals Microsoft and Cisco Systems, but both of those companies have debt that brings them below Apple's total.

Bolstering Apple's financial fortune more than anything has been the iPhone. As has been reported numerous times, the profit margins on the device have greatly increased the handset-maker's revenue, even allowing it to lower its prices on MacBook Pros without affecting the company's bottom line.

In addition, the Journal notes that Apple is not as dependent upon business customers as its rival to the north, Microsoft. Since the recession has had a major impact on corporate spending, the Windows maker has felt a greater impact than Apple.

"Apple has stated a preference for holding on to its money, which allows it to invest in the business in ways such as making acquisitions (though the company seems less inclined than Microsoft to pursue big buyouts," the report states. "It has also stated, however, that its board of directors regularly considers dividends, share buybacks and other options that would return cash to shareholders."

While Apple would rather invest in its cash as the company continues to grow, Microsoft, experiencing a growth slowdown since 2004, has taken a different approach to attract investors. Last year, Microsoft made a one-time $32 billion payment to its shareholders and doubled the payout of its annual dividends.

Similarly, Microsoft has reportedly also offered cash to developers in hopes of courting them to the Zune HD, to be released Sept. 15. According to John Gruber of Daring Fireball, a developer was offered a "bucket of money" to port a Twitter client from the iPhone to the Zune.

The news is noteworthy because Microsoft has not yet announced any plans for an App Store-like offering on the upcoming Zune HD, or any ability for third-party software to run.

"My source is certain the offer was for the Zune, but because he turned it down early on, he doesn’t know the details regarding the OS or SDK," Gruber wrote. If true, the news could mean the Zune is more than just a media player and Web browser, as has already been revealed.