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Downturn, Schmownturn: Apple Just Made a Huge Pile O' Cash

At the end of the day in Seattle yesterday Apple dropped its third quarter financial results. It's a regular act, nothing to be excited about. Except Apple's figures are, in the light of the current economic slowdown, astonishing.

The quarter spans the early months of this year, ending at the close of June, and the main hardware changes it encompasses are Apple's adjustments to its MacBook lineup of computers—the new iPhone 3G S just sneaks in on sale in the U.S. in the very last weeks of the period. Which makes it look like business as usual, for a quiet quarter after the holiday season.

Nope. Apple's profits were reported as $1.23 billion from revenues of $8.34 billion (a 14.7% margin). But for the same quarter last year the profit was just $1.07 billion. In the midst of a global economic slide, with tech companies shedding jobs to save money, with PC sales slipping, and cellphone giants like Nokia hurting badly, Apple's somehow managed to grow its profits by 15%. It's the company's best non-Holiday quarter ever.

So what's Apple's secret sauce—the mechanism driving these figures? Partly it's the sale of Macs—Apple sold 2.6 million of them in the quarter, up 4% year on year. The other key influence is, of course, the iPhone—5.2 million were sold in the quarter, representing a crazy 626% growth. The iPod, which was Apple's golden child for years, is beginning to be less important: its sales fell 7% in the quarter. 

Why Apple's bucking the downturn trend is harder to put one's finger on—it's perfectly possible that the excellent design of Macs and the iPhone is a big draw. And it seems that Apple's pricing policy, long derided in the media and the subject of Microsoft's recent sour grapes ad campaign, is actually a positive thing.

Here's another interesting stat: 44% of the quarter's revenue came from international sales. Apple has really become a global company. And with the iPhone and associated App Store revenues only going to soar up as the iPhone expands into other countries—China next, it seems—that figure will surely rise. It's perfectly possible that this time next year the majority of Apple's sales will be abroad.

Keep an eye out for Apple's next quarter figures too: These will include the iPhone 3G S sales, in the U.S. and many other countries around the world, and it already seems to be selling like hotcakes.


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