Apple record profits set stage for "latest creation"

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The Independent Tech

Surging iPhone sales worldwide have Apple riding a wave of record-high profit into a Wednesday mystery event at which it will unveil its newest miracle gadget.

A doubling of iPhone sales helped Apple on Monday post record-high quarterly net profit of 3.38 billion dollars in the fiscal quarter ending December 26.

"We're thrilled to report our best quarter ever," Apple chief financial officer Peter Oppenheimer said in a conference call with analysts.

Apple said revenue in the first quarter rose to 15.68 billion dollars from 11.88 billion in the corresponding quarter a year ago.

"If you annualize our quarterly revenue, it's surprising that Apple is now a 50-billion-dollar-plus company," said the iconic California firm's chief executive Steve Jobs.

"The new products we are planning to release this year are very strong, starting this week with a major new product that we're really excited about," Jobs said in a statement.

Apple has maintained trademark secrecy regarding a Wednesday event at which it is expected to debut a tablet computer along the lines of an "iPhone on steroids," according to analysts.

Apple executives refused to comment on the event during the conference call, telling analysts to "stay tuned."

"I wouldn't want to take away your joy of surprise when you see our latest creation," Apple chief operating officer Tim Cook said on the call when pressed for comment.

The technology rumor mill is busy grinding speculation that the culture-changing firm has made a notepad-shaped tablet computer with a color touchscreen that lets people browse the Web, listen to music, watch movies or television shows and also read electronic books and newspapers.

A tablet would be Apple's first major product release since it came out with its winning iPhone three years ago.

Apple credited iPhone sales with catapulting profit in the freshly-ended quarter to 3.67 dollars per share, beating Apple's previous record-high by nearly 850 million dollars.

Apple said it sold 3.36 million Macintosh computers during the quarter, 33 percent more than a year ago, and 8.7 million iPhones, up 100 percent from a year ago.

However, sales of iPods slid eight percent to 21 million units in a year-over-year comparison.

Apple executives noted that while sales of traditional iPod models declined, those of top end iPod Touch models rose 55 percent resulting in a slight increase in revenue in that product category.

Apple said its share of the MP3 music player market remains at more than 70 percent and iPods are gaining ground internationally. Apple's online iTunes store also logged a record-breaking quarter.

Apple has expanded iPhone sales to 86 countries including China.

"We have really just started to get going in China," Cook said. "I like what I see so far."

Apple has activated more than 200,000 iPhones in China since it began selling them in that country at the end of October, according to Cook.

"We would prefer to move slow because we are focused on building the brand for the long term," Cook said. "We are very happy working with China Unicom. They are an excellent partner for us."

Apple said 58 percent of its revenue in the quarter came from outside the United States.

Apple reported that revenues in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and mainland China tripled while sales also surged in Western Europe.

"It is clear our growth rates are much higher outside the US," Cook said.

"We realize we must do well in these markets to continue to grow."

Apple is pushing to get more iPhones into businesses.

Oppenheimer said Apple expects revenue in the current fiscal quarter to range from 11.0 to 11.4 billion dollars and for diluted earnings to tally between 2.06 and 2.18 dollars per share.

Apple stock price rose nearly two percent to 205 dollars per share in trading that followed release of the earnings results.

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