Apple’s legendary founder and all-round consumer electronics guru Jobs went on sick leave in January – for a liver transplant no less – and only returned to the office in June. But the firm did very nicely thank you without him, as Q3 revenues beat expectations to hit $8.3bn for the three months to 27 June. Profits did even better, up 15% to $1.23bn, and perhaps most impressively of all every region in the world showed sales growth, despite the recession.
And the engine of this remarkable performance? The must-have iPhone, 5.2m of which were sold, a staggering 626% rise compared to Q3 last year. The firm even managed to produce growth in the very mature desktop computer market, with sales of Mac computers up 4% too. The iPod music player was the only product line to show what Gordon Brown would call ‘negative growth’, with sales down 7%.
Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer was bullish about the coming months, saying he expects even better results in the final quarter. The strong figures will go quite some way towards addressing shareholder concerns that the firm can still perform well without day-to-day input from the famously hands-on Jobs.
The numbers also demonstrate that Apple is continuing to pull off the hardest trick in its industry’s book – keeping ahead of the curve. The product cycle is now so fast that to stay successful requires not just one or two killer products, but a full pipeline of them – it’s no longer enough to know what the next, next big thing is going to be, you have to be three or four generations ahead. No mean feat for a firm of Apple’s relatively modest size.
Speaking of gravity-defying performances – or rather the opposite - one poor fellow who succumbed entirely to Newton’s inexorable pull was Chinese electronics worker Sun Danyong. Sun worked for Taiwanese Foxconn, one of Apple’s largest manufacturers, and was suspected of having stolen one of 16 top-secret fourth generation iPhone prototypes produced by the Taiwanese firm.
Following a company investigation in which Sun’s friends allege he was beaten, the 25-year-old jumped to his death from the roof of a 12-storey building.
It is not the first time that Foxconn has faced allegations of worker cruelty, although it has always vigorously denied such claims. Apple has said it is saddened by the death, but the whole sorry episode does demonstrate just how high temperatures can run in the race to keep putting out great numbers like those Apple posted today.
In today's bulletin:
No full recovery for UK until 2014, says NIESR
No Jobs crunch at Apple as sales rise 12%
Editor's blog: Private school-bashing and social mobility
Sven Goran Eriksson goes into turnaround
Size isn't everything for today's recruits