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The rumors gained steam Tuesday, sending Sony stock up nearly 3 percent at one point, according to Reuters. Sony declined to comment on the rumors, and analysts polled were skeptical of a potential deal, suggesting that if Apple did try to buy Sony, it would be a hostile takeover that would not likely succeed in Japan.
Helping to fuel the rumors was a report issued on Saturday by Barron's that suggested Apple could buy Sony. It also speculated that Adobe and Disney could be potential targets for the Cupertino, Calif., company.
Another possible source for the rumors could be a recent interview former Apple CEO John Sculley did with Bloomberg. Sculley talked about how Apple co-founder Jobs was fascinated by Sony, its products and its manufacturing process. Sculley said that Jobs wanted Apple to be like Sony, not Microsoft.
"I remember (Sony co-founder) Akio Morita gave us one of the first Sony Walkmans," Sculley said. "None of us had ever seen anything like that before, because there had never been a product like that. This was 25 years ago and Steve was fascinated by it. The first thing he did was take it apart, and he looked at every single part. How the fit and finish was done, how it was built."
Apple has more than $51 billion in cash and reserves, and the company was pressed about that money during its quarterly earnings report last week. Jobs told analysts that his company will use that cash for big moves, suggesting that just "one or more" deals could be possible in the near future.
Jobs' comments have fueled speculation of potential major acquisitions, ranging from Sony to Adobe to Facebook. But until now, Apple has only used its cash for small, strategic purchases.
Recent acquisitions include 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.