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by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Dan Moren

The Back Page: The Metal Play

We all know Apple has a strong impetus to control all the aspects of its products’ production, but the recent news that the company might be looking into acquiring cobalt directly from the source has really taken that to a new level. I can only imagine that the company’s metal play might soon involve the likes of cadmium, nickel, and platinum, creating direct lines that feed those materials directly into Cupertino. And it’s got me a little worried—because where does it end?

I’ll tell you.

Apple wouldn’t be the first to try and acquire a hoard of precious metals, not only for its own satisfaction but in order to prevent any others from getting their hands on them. No, there’s at least one noted figure, powerful beyond measure, that’s tried a very similar strategy, and it didn’t end well for them.

I’m speaking, of course, of Smaug.

The similarities are undeniable. Like Smaug, Apple has a vast amount of wealth (though admittedly not currently in metal form). Smaug’s lair is a monstrous circular volcano that bears an uncanny resemblance to the caldera of Apple’s Park, if you squint and have slightly blurry vision. And, like Smaug, Apple is fond of making “acquisitions”, often without telling anybody.

In case you think I’m stretching matters a bit, consider the etymological evidence in favor of my theories. The word “cobalt” is from the German word “kobold,” meaning “goblin.” In The Hobbit, Thorin Oakenshield and his company of dwarves encounter goblins beneath the Misty Mountains. So perhaps you’ll see that this is not simply a flight of fancy, but a careful and deliberate undertaking of sharp analysis.

Now, Tim Cook clearly is not a dragon. There’s been no evidence of breathing fire or flapping about on scaly wings, burning crops and terrorizing peasants. That isn’t to say, though, that Tim Cook couldn’t be somehow sheltering or covering for a dragon.

But so far, nobody has dared to ask the hard-hitting questions that would allow us to get to the root of this matter. In Apple’s quarterly financial conference call earlier this month, not a single analyst inquired whether or not the company has future plans to drive dwarves out of their traditional family homes far beneath ground. Nor did any of the propositions at this year’s shareholder meetings discuss whether Apple has contingency plans against an invisible hobbit infiltrating its campus while posing riddles. These are serious oversights.

Moreover, none of this deals with Apple’s chief strategic weakness, specifically a bare patch in its corporate armor that might allow the company’s destruction via a perfectly fired iron arrow. This, frankly, that smacks of an overly arrogant attitude of invincibility that borders on corporate negligence.

Fine, very well. So be it. At the end of the day, this is all upon Apple and Cook’s head. If the company is hell bent upon snapping up precious metals to satisfy the greed and lust for wealth of an ancient dragon, there is perhaps little we can do to dissuade them. Except, perhaps, to remind them that dragons are notoriously fickle creatures and their allies today might be their dinner tomorrow.

[Dan Moren is the East Coast Bureau Chief of Six Colors. You can find him on Twitter at @dmoren or reach him by email at dan@sixcolors.com. His latest novel, The Nova Incident, comes out in July and is available to pre-order now, so do it!]

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