Apple Surges on Heady Earnings, Growth

Apple posted its latest quarterly earnings on Wednesday, and results surpassed even the most optimistic expectations. Apple profits jumped 88 percent in the quarter to $770 million on revenues of $5.26 billion, the company said. Sales of iPod portable media players rose 24 percent in the quarter to 10.5 million units, while sales of Macintosh computer systems rose even higher, 36 percent, to 1.5 million units. Today, the Mac accounts for about 55 percent of Apple's earnings, while the iPod and its associated products and services account for the other 45 percent. But the best news for Apple came after the announcement: Apple's stock hit $100 for the first time in after-hours trading.

"We are very pleased to report the most profitable March quarter in Apple's history," Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer said. "Looking ahead to the \[next\] quarter of 2007, we expect revenue of about $5.1 billion."

Apple's strong performance comes during a time in which it has not shipped major updates to either of its two product lines. Apple will bolster its iPod line with the iPod sometime in June, and the company expects to ship the next update to the Mac operating system software in October. Presumably, Apple will refresh its other Mac and iPod hardware throughout the year as well.

While the iPod continues to dominate the digital music world, Apple's Mac has seen only limited real world gains, despite the strong growth. Apple CEO Steve Jobs, who presided over a bizarre MacWorld event earlier this year during which no new Mac products were announced or discussed, went out of his way this week to cast a positive spin on the Mac market. "The Mac is clearly gaining market share, with sales growing 36 percent--more than three times the industry growth rate," he boasted. While this is technically true, the Mac's worldwide market actually only grew very slightly in the quarter: It grew from 2.4 percent of the market in the fourth quarter of 2006 to 2.49 percent in the first quarter of 2007. And though Apple's growth rate is indeed higher than the industry average, many PC makers, including market leader Hewlett-Packard (HP), also experienced huge percentage growth gains in the quarter. HP, for example, grew about 29 percent worldwide and controls about 18 percent of the market.

Still, there's a growing consensus that Apple's successes with the Mac are not so easily characterized. Though the Mac's market share remains tiny, Macs are indeed selling well and generating plenty of profits for Apple. Presumably, the company can continue as a specialty PC maker whose products are loved for their design aesthetics, performance, and security. And though there are indications that Apple is preoccupied with its consumer electronics products, the Mac market remains both viable and desirable.

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