Company Vitae: Apple

After 35 years at the forefront of the consumer electronics revolution, Apple faces the future under new management. What are the prospects for Steve Jobs's brainchild?

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Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

Formative years

Every self-respecting geek has been weaned on the tale of the two Steves, so here's a very potted version. Apple grew from the union of fruitarian drop-out Jobs, electronics whizz Steve 'Woz' Wozniak, plus the Home Brew Computer Club, San Francisco. From the off, its stuff was easy on the eye - it's hard to credit now, but 1977's Apple II was a svelte device in its day and the Mac (1984) and iMac (1998) continued the market-leading mix of style and function. However, the founders parted company, Woz falling victim to what became known as 'Steve's hero to shithead roller-coaster'.

Not that Jobs's early career was without incident either - in 1985, aged 30, he was fired by John Sculley, the CEO he had hired himself. Apple tanked without him and he rode to the rescue in 1997, masterminding three of the bestselling and most influential gadgets in modern tech history - the iPod, iPhone and iPad. Over 100 million iPhones have been sold since 2007.

Recent history

After Jobs's death in October from pancreatic cancer, much speculation about Apple's future ensued. But the length of his illness allowed time to prepare - Jobs signed off on three to four years' worth of new product streams before heading off to the big Apple Store in the sky and the auguries are good. The next big thing in consumer tech, internet TV, is surely right up the Cupertino slicker's alley: who would you rather buy a TV from, Apple, Google or Microsoft?

Who's the boss?

Some critics have questioned whether the less extrovert new CEO, Tim Cook, is showman enough for the task, but few know the firm as well as he does; he joined 14 years ago. He earned $378m in 2011 and is a famously hard worker, who starts emailing at 4.30am.

The secret formula?

Geek chic. Although often cited as an innovator, Apple's most successful products have, in fact, rarely been the first of their kind - there were MP3 players before the iPod and the firm was extremely late to the smartphone party. Instead, its genius lies in packaging the best of existing technology, making it ultra-desirable and pricing for margin. It works - the launch of the latest iPhone caused riots on the streets in Beijing.

Don't mention

The early iPhone 4's famous 'signal attenuation' issues (its reception was poor when held in the usual way) confirmed the view of many sceptics that Apple can be too cool for its own good. Even the smartest smartphone ought to be capable of making phone calls ...

VITAL STATISTICS

Sales: $108.2bn

Profits: $25.9bn

Employees: 60,400

* Figures for full-year 2011.

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