The Money’s in Apple

A little over 7 years ago on 15th August 1998, that computer company from Cupertino that we all now know so well launched the iMac, a computer which represented a then-revolutionary attitude to industrial design and which spawned a thousand imitations by cheap Taiwanese motherboard manufacturers. It was also the first manifestation of a sea change in Cupertino after Steve Jobs’ return to the company and reinstatement as CEO. Granted, it was, of course, the iPod that changed it all – the spark which ignited the explosion of Apple popularity that we are seeing around the world today – but the iMac was really the beginning.

So much has changed in those seven years. Apple has gone from being that “beleaguered” computer manufacturer, perpetually in the doldrums and churning out unexciting computers that didn’t do enough to justify their hefty price tags, to one of the best brands in the world, and the hype which surrounds the company is more feverish than ever.

This was brought home to me the other day by an article in The Register, which noted that “shares of Seagate sank on Friday on word that Apple would replace the disk maker’s components with flash memory in lower-end iPods“. The effect can be seen in this Yahoo! Finance graph.

Mere rumour did this. Granted, traders have always been jumpy types, and a rumour can be the difference between making a heady profit or some catastrophic loss, but it seems impressive nonetheless. Apple has been shrouding its future plans in secrecy since the dawn of time – it’s Steve Jobs’ modus operandi – and this has in turn given rise to sites like Think Secret and AppleInsider. But whereas once the only types who concerned themselves with such speculation were the diehards who dug OS 9, now what Apple is doing matters to a whole lot more people. And if Seagate’s to come a cropper, then perhaps Hitachi’s shareholders would do well to keep an eye on what Apple’s up to as well (the other supposed supplier for iPod mini hard disks). It’s not a make or break thing for either of these companies, but it’s clear that Apple’s custom now really matters.

And It’s not just suppliers. The rumoured Motorola phone will likely net that company not a small amount of money, and it is considered a significant coup for O2, the British mobile network, to have secured exclusive rights to the iPod phone in the UK. Cingular, similarly, stands to do well for the same reason in the USA.

And iPod shuffles are now being used as free gifts to tempt customers into buying mobile phone packages. In the UK, T-Mobile are offering iPod shuffles with certain contracts, in the knowledge that in the cutthroat mobile market, having an Apple product they can give away free might just be enough to give them an edge.

It’s amazing how times change.

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