Apple followed up the MacBook Air introduction nine months later -- in September -- with a new batch of lighter, aluminum MacBooks with faster graphics and a better display, and lowered the entry-level price of the white plastic MacBook to $999. Apple also upgraded the MacBook Air. The systems got a graphics boost by switching from Intel's integrated graphics chipsets to the Nvidia 9400M chipset, as well as getting LED backlit displays with glass front, and a larger, multi-touch trackpad.
Prior to the launch, Apple blogs fueled rumors of an $800 MacBook, Apple's answer to the emerging netbook market of small, low-powered, low-priced laptops. But that didn't happen.
Apple updated its all-in-one iMac line in April, with faster Intel Core 2 Duo processors and an optional more powerful graphics processor on its high-end 24-inch model. The company said it shipped 2.3 million Macs in the first quarter of 2008, up 51% year-over-year. IDC reported that Apple's share of the U.S. PC market during the first quarter reached 7.1%, up from 4.9% year-over-year.
Apple refreshed the iPod line in September, with new designs and lower prices. The new iPod Touch and Nano are thinner and more curved than previous models, with a new "Genius" feature that can play a playlist of up to 100 songs similar to any tune chosen from the user's music library. In addition, the Nano got a new "shake to shuffle" feature to play songs at random. And new pricing was announced: The Nano, now available in nine colors, sells starting at $149. The new iPod Touch sells starting at $229.
While the iPhone and MacBook Air were the sexy products of 2008, Macs and the iPod are the workhorses of the Apple line.
Apple Succeeds Financially In Bleak Economy
It's hard to say that any company is doing well in the current economic climate. But Apple seems to be weathering the storm pretty well.
Sales were up 27% in the quarter fourth ending Sept. 27, driven by strong Mac and iPhone demand. The company said it passed its goal of selling 10 million iPhones this year and profits reached the $1.14 billion mark.
Steve Jobs himself put in a rare appearance on the analyst conference call announcing results Oct. 21. He said the company is prepared for the economic slowdown with a loyal customer base that's likely to delay purchases rather than turn to competitors. Furthermore, Apple has a successful product portfolio that offers strong value for the money, and $25 billion in the bank, Jobs told analysts.
How's Apple doing today? Analysts are optimistic. Shaw Wu of Kaufman Brothers gave Apple a buy rating in late November, saying its strong product line and small market share work in its favor. True, Apple's stock price is tumbling, but that just makes it a strong value stock, says BusinessWeek financial columnist Gene Marcial.
The iPhone in particular might do well in a down economy. Surprisingly, the iPhone is popular among low-income users, who use it as a replacement for multiple devices for work and entertainment, according to a study by ComScore.
It's hard to predict a prosperous 2009 for Apple -- or anyone else. However, Apple is a pillar of strength in a storm-tossed economy.
A year from now, we could be facing a complete collapse of civilization, and bartering livestock to survive. In that case, you can be sure that Apple's cows and sheep will be sleeker and easier to milk than other vendors' -- while critics say Apple's livestock are just overpriced goats with expensive haircuts.