When Steve Jobs suggests that Apple's $50+ Billion in liquid assets was being saved for the opportunity to acquire something big, we shouldn't confine our thinking to the obvious, companies with market caps smaller than Apple's mountain of cash.
Take, for instance HP. If things continue as they are for awhile longer, Apple's cash reserves will surpass HP's market cap in a few years, but even before that it might be possible to execute an acquisition that included an issue of new stock.
So, why would Apple be the least bit interested in buying HP, nostalgia aside?
HP is among the more nimble of the well established technology companies, and has a reputation for quality that suggests its corporate culture might at least be compatible with Apple's. It has a more diverse product line than does Apple, with distribution channels to match, and has a huge collection of intellectual property, including that recently acquired along with Palm.
But HP sells computers that run Windows! What good would that be to Apple?
To begin with, Apple could make sure those computers all shipped with Safari, iTunes, and MobileMe Control Panel preloaded, and include the same trial MobileMe account that they do for Mac buyers. Apple has plenty of experience with supporting Windows, so this much wouldn't even be a challenge.
Beyond that, Apple could alter the circuit board designs to make them Mac-compatible, and offer them with Windows, Mac OS X, or both, picking up some additional after-market business from people who bought Windows-only machines and later had regrets. People who were leaning towards getting a PC but tempted by Macs would flock to HP in droves, taking business away from its PC competitors.
I'm not predicting that Apple will acquire HP, only pointing out that a case for doing so might be made, and suggesting that this illustrates how broad a net is needed to gather in all of the possibilities for what Apple might do with its hoard.