Apple reigns supreme when it comes to making money, but now faces even greater expectations
NEVER before has so much money been made by a single firm in such a short period of time. On January 27th Tim Cook, the boss of Apple, announced that it had made $18 billion in its latest fiscal quarter, which ran almost to the end of December 2014. That beats the previous record of $15.9 billion reported by ExxonMobil, an oil company, in 2012, according to S&P Dow Jones Indices.
单单一家公司，在这么短的时间内赚了这么多钱，历史上从未有过。1月27日当天，苹果公司CEO蒂姆·库克（Tim Cook）宣布，在最新的财务季度当中（接近于2014年12月底结束）公司获得了180亿美元的净利润。而根据标普道琼斯指数公司（S&P Dow Jones Indices）的资料显示，这一数据打破了先前由石油公司埃克森美孚（ExxonMobil）于2012年所创下单季度159亿美元的记录。
Apple's telephone-number-sized profit stemmed largely from sales of its hugely popular iPhone, which accounted for over two-thirds of its $74.6 billion revenue. Chief executives rarely admit to being dumbfounded by their companies' performance, but Mr Cook said it was “hard to comprehend” the extent of the interest in Apple's products. He noted that, on average, 34,000 iPhones were bought every hour of every day during the latest quarter. That added up to 74.5m phones, way more than market-watchers had expected.
Apple is the world's largest company by market capitalisation as well as its most profitable. Strikingly, it has risen to greatness using a rather old-fashioned business model: selling highly desirable objects at fat gross margins, which hit almost 40% in the latest quarter. The tech industry has spawned numerous software-based firms, such as Google and Facebook, that don't have to worry about shifting goods around, yet they make much less than the Colossus of Cupertino. Amazon handles lots of physical goods, but loses money.
Another thing that sets Apple apart from the tech pack is its success in conquering China. While rivals have been frustrated there, Apple has just become the largest force in China's smartphone market measured by units shipped, according to Canalys, a market-research firm. Apple's revenue from the Greater China region, which includes Taiwan and Hong Kong, soared 70%, to just over $16 billion.
Any setback in China could hurt Apple. The company's overall dependence on the iPhone is another risk. But these are early days for the iPhone 6, Apple's latest device, whose bigger screen takes the firm into the “phablet” category of larger phones that are wildly popular with customers. Some iBulls also point out that Apple's share of the smartphone market is small compared with devices using Google's Android operating system (see chart). So it has plenty of room to grow.
在中国市场的任何挫折，都可能使苹果公司遭受沉重打击。而苹果对旗下产品iPhone的全面依赖性，无疑是另一个风险。但这部分担忧对于iPhone 6来说还言之尚早。作为苹果公司的最新产品，iPhone 6拥有比以往更大的屏幕，引领公司进入到了“平板手机”的竞争领域，而目前消费者们正是对大屏幕手机青睐有加。一部分“资深果粉”还指出，与谷歌的安卓操作系统相比，苹果的智能手机市场占有率还是算小的（如上图所示）。因此，苹果手机还有充足的增长空间。
If it is still to reduce its dependence on iPhones, Apple will need new money-spinning gizmos. Mr Cook said this week that its much-ballyhooed smartwatch will go on sale in April. Tim Bajarin of Creative Strategies, a consulting firm, thinks Apple could sell 22m-24m in the first 12 months after the launch, producing billions of dollars of new revenue. Sanford C. Bernstein, a research firm, reckons the watches will have a higher-than-average gross margin, which bodes well for profits.
如果苹果公司仍旧要降低其对iPhone系列的依赖性，那么就需要有新的盈利产品。本周，库克先生表示万众期待的智能手表将会在4月正式发售。创意策略咨询公司（Creative Strategies）顾问蒂姆·巴加林（Tim Bajarin）认为，苹果能够在该产品首发的12个月内卖出2200万至2400万个，获得数十亿的新营收。斯坦福·伯恩斯坦公司（Sanford C. Bernstein）则估计，苹果手表能够拥有高于平均水平的销售毛利率，而这便预示着可观的利润。
Apple should be able to make more money from software and services, too. The firm's online store of software apps had its busiest-ever day on January 1st and the introduction of a smart watch will lead to another app feeding frenzy. Apple profits by taking a chunk of the money developers make from app sales and in-app purchases. By binding customers into its “ecosystem” of hardware and software plus services such as Apple Pay, a contactless-payment system, the firm also makes it more likely they will stay with it when they upgrade their gadgets.
与此同时，苹果公司也应该能在软件和服务方面赚取更多的钱。本年的1月1日，苹果的线上应用商城迎来了有史以来业务最繁忙的一天，而智能手表的推广也会引发另一场应用抢购狂潮。苹果公司的盈利点在于，从软件开发者的应用软件销售额和应用内的产品服务销售额两部分当中，抽取大量的提成。通过将消费者与苹果的硬件、软件和服务（如非接触式支付系统 Apple Pay）三者紧密结合的方式，苹果公司构建出了自己的“生态系统”，这也令消费者们在对自己的设备更新换代之时，更有可能继续购买苹果的产品。
This still leaves the company with a headache other firms would die to have: its Croesus-like mountain of cash, which now stands at $178 billion—a figure that is greater than the market capitalisations of information-technology giants such as Intel and IBM. Apple, which has already spent billions of dollars on share buy-backs, will revisit its plans to return money to shareholders and discuss them in April. Mr Cook can expect plenty of calls from activist investors before then, no doubt from their shiny new iPhones.