Given the latest financial reports, it defies belief that just 13 years ago Apple was wheezing on its deathbed.
Even harder to believe, Steve Jobs was forced to grovel before Bill Gates to keep Apple viable with a $150 million investment and a public pledge to support Office for Mac for five years.
How different are things today? Well, as we all know, last year Apple surpassed Microsoft to become the most valuable technology company on earth.
Some shrugged that off because, market value aside, Microsoft still made far more profit than Apple. The profit margins in the software biz are much higher. In fact, Microsoft has trounced Apple in the profit department for 20 consecutive years.
Don’t count on 21.
According to Reuters, Apple is about to deliver the final blow. Microsoft is expected to announce a $5.93 billion profit for the last quarter — while Apple has already announced its $6 billion profit for the same quarter. (Correction 4:00 pm 1/27: Reuters’ analysts missed. Microsoft hit $6.63 billion in profits. For now, still the leader. For how many more quarters, your guess.)
But it gets juicier.
Philip Elmer-Dewitt writes for Fortune that while several research firms reported fairly poor numbers for PCs last quarter, a firm called Canalys saw a whopping 19% growth in PCs during this time. That’s because they counted tablets as PCs — and iPads sold by the millions.
By including iPad sales, Canalys shows Apple’s PC sales growing an astounding 241% over last year. This pushes them into the #3 spot worldwide, ahead of Dell and Lenovo, second only to HP and Acer.
Hold it right there, you say. Tablets are not PCs. That’s just twisting the numbers to make Apple look better. And yes, many would agree. (Just read the comments below the Elmer-Dewitt article.)
Your honor, I call Steve Ballmer to the witness stand. Here’s what Ballmer said when interviewed by Walt Mossberg at the All Things Digital conference last June. Skip to the 3:26 mark to see this exchange:
Mossberg: …this is semantics maybe, but, you’re using the term PC — I thought I just heard you use the term PC — to kind of envelop the things that I think a lot of average people don’t think of as PCs, like the iPad, or other tablets that might be coming. Is that kind of thing a PC?
Ballmer: Sure, of course it is.
Mossberg: It is.
Ballmer: Of course it is. It’s a different form factor of PC.
While it hurts to be on the same side of an argument as Steve Ballmer, I agree. Ballmer’s comments validate the Canalys numbers. With Apple now at 10.8% of the worldwide PC shipments, they’re a stone’s throw behind Acer’s 12.8%. And not imaginably far behind HP’s 17.7%.
This is shaping up to be an interesting decade.