Apple's numbers tell the story

Before last week’s Macworld Expo keynote, I had the option of sitting in the VIP section. Why I was awarded with a VIP badge, I’m not sure, as I am not important, let alone very important. Near as I can figure, I’ve been at Macworld long enough without getting fired that someone somewhere figured I must hold some sort of sway or incriminating pictures or something. (So add “ Macworld editor” to the list of things that become more respectable if they last long enough.)

Anyhow, owing to several circumstances—my general discomfort among the nobs and the swells, my preference for wearing shirts that make me look like a member of Don Ho’s backup orchestra instead of a productive member of society—I wound up foregoing the VIP seating to join my fellow virtual-ink-stained wretches in the press section. It’s a decision I’ve regretted ever since, and not just because the guy sitting in front of me kept standing up during the keynote to take pictures at key moments during Steve Jobs’ presentation. (What does the iPhone look like, you ask? Like some guy’s massive backside so far as I know.)

No, the reason I regret my seating choice is that the grumbling from the press corps began practically from the moment Jobs unveiled Apple TV and the iPhone, culminating in open groaning by the time John Mayer took the stage for a repeat keynote performance. (Maybe the folks around me were expecting someone from Liverpool instead. Or maybe they’ve heard Your Body is a Wonderland. Who knows?)

On some level, you can understand the frustration of the press: We just sat through a two-hour keynote that featured no actual shipping products? What the hell are we supposed to write about between now and June? But there seemed to be another current of discontent that reached even some of the civilians in the crowd. The lack of Mac-specific product announcements—no hardware, no iLife, no iWork—coupled with the departure of “computer” from Apple’s official name left some folks grousing that Apple is turning its back on its long-time Mac business in favor of shiny new baubles like iPods and iPhones and lord knows what else.

Apple provided a rebuttal of sorts in announcing its record-breaking $1 billion first-quarter profit Wednesday. Lost amid the eye-popping numbers—seriously, $1 billion in profit —were some interesting tidbits about just where all that money— $1 billion! —was coming from.

Apple shipped 1.6 million desktops and laptops for the three months ended December 31, a 28-percent increase over the same period a year ago. For those of you scoring at home, that’s yet another strong quarter of Mac shipments following the impressive results Apple posted in its fiscal fourth quarter. More telling, Mac sales accounted for $2.4 billion, or 34 percent, of Apple’s $7.1 billion in quarterly sales. So if you think Apple is entertaining thoughts of abandoning its computer business think again—it has a couple billion reasons not to.

The flip side of that is Apple has an equal incentive to look beyond its Mac business for more revenue-producing opportunities. Consider that the company shipped 21 million iPods in the first quarter, 50 percent more than last year and up a staggering 141 percent from the 8.7 million iPods it shipped in the fourth quarter of 2006. This quarter’s iPod haul accounted for 48 percent of Apple’s revenue the past three months.

In other words, a little more than five years after Apple first introduced the iPod to a surprisingly receptive world, the music device generates nearly half of the company’s sales. Can you really blame Apple, then, for looking at new areas like the iPhone and seeing the potential for expanding its business even further? A healthy, financially buoyant Apple is a productive Apple across all areas of its business, even the computers we all use and admire. And if these first-quarter figures tell us anything, it’s that the Mac business ain’t exactly hurting, even as Apple explores new avenues of growth.

So if Steve Jobs wants to spend three-fourths of his keynote talking about a phone that won’t be in anyone else’s hands for another six months, I’m prepared to give him some leeway. At present, the man seems to know what he’s doing. And if he takes the stage for next year’s Expo and announces that he’s not there to talk about the Mac or the iPod or the iPhone but some new gizmo instead, well, then that will be all right, too.

I’ll probably sit in the VIP section for that one, though.

  
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