Mr Cook uses what he calls Apple’s “mother of all balance sheets”, now stockpiled with $76bn of cash, to exercise control over his suppliers. Rather than owning plants or managing inventory or factory employees, Mr Cook corners the market in existing components, such as flash memory, and finances the expensive and exclusive production of new components so Apple has access to them long before rivals do. Bringing truckloads of cash to the low-margin manufacturing and assembly business buys Apple a lot of loyalty and discipline. Coupled with Apple’s knack for forecasting demand, it allows Mr Cook precise control without ownership, the aspiration of supply chain management.

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