Thanks To Strong Mac Sales, Blockbuster Quarter for Apple

These days, Apple is better known for its best-selling iPod devices and popular iPhone smartphones, but in the most recent quarter it was the all-but-forgotten Macintosh that was the star. Apple rang up a profit of $3.38 billion on revenues of $15.68 billion. These figures are dramatically better than previous quarters, thanks to an unexpected accounting change. But they're still all-time highs for the company, no matter how you do the math.

Apple being Apple, the company is also plugging the future, with a deft nod to this week's expected tablet announcement. "Apple is now a $50+ billion company," CEO Steve Jobs said in a prepared statement. "The new products we are planning to release this year are very strong, starting this week with a major new product that we're really excited about."

Jobs didn't need to prime the anticipation pump—the entire world is already ga-ga over a product that, quite frankly, doesn't appear to satisfy any pressing need. But Apple's financial results are a great indication of where the company is at currently. And almost universally, one sees nothing but strength across its product lines.

Mac. With 3.36 million Macintosh computers sold in the quarter, Apple seized 3.82 percent of the worldwide computer market in Q4 2009. That doesn't sound like much, maybe, but it's a solid business that is starting to pick up in international markets that have historically been soft for the product line.

iPhone. Apple sold 8.7 million iPhones in Q4 2009, a 100 percent increase over the 4.3 million sold in the same quarter in 2008. This number was actually a bit disappointing to analysts, who had expected even stronger growth. But the iPhone is still a sales phenomenon and the standard by which all other smartphones are measured.

iPod. Apple sold 21 million iPods in the quarter, a heady figure, but one that represents an 8 percent decline over the same quarter a year ago. Apple declines to split out sales by model, but most analysts believe that over half of these sales are of the iPod touch, which utilizes the iPhone OS. (This supposition is supported by the fact that iPod revenues were up 1 percent year over year, meaning that Apple is making more per device—the iPod touch is the high-end model.) So it seems that traditional iPods, which are essentially just media players, are starting to lose out to the more powerful and versatile iPod touch/iPhone devices.

Put simply, Apple has continued to perform strongly during an economic recession that brought many tech companies to their knees. And with its continued strong stock price and thrifty spending habits, Apple is now a company with considerable financial strength—one that, for example, can now bid for acquisitions on equal footing with industry giants such as Google and Microsoft.

And let's not forget this week's tablet announcement. That such a marginal product could incite so much excitement is, perhaps, the best measure yet of this company's influence over both the industry and the general public

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