The Lowly iPod Keeps on Rolling for Apple

apple ipodThe iPod, first introduced in 2001, has been overshadowed in recent years by the iPad and iPhone. But it was the foundation of Apple's (AAPL) revived success and the cornerstone of CEO Steve Jobs's creative vision for the company. The "i" in iPod has been attached to all the major successful product introductions Apple has made in the last five years.

Last quarter, Apple sold 9.3 million iPods, bringing to about 300 million the number that have been sold overall, but the devices are no longer a huge profit engine for the company. Revenue for the iPod line was only $1.5 billion, less than 10% of Apple's total of $15.7 billion.

The iPod was also Apple's early beachhead overseas. It was sold in Europe and Asia for half a decade before the iPhone was introduced in 2007, the torch-bearer for a brand which for years had had little success overseas due to the Mac's incompatibility with Windows-based PCs.

Apple's sales almost tripled from 2002 to 2005 when they hit $13.9 billion. The company went from annual profits of $87 million to $1.8 billion over the same period. And Apple hasn't lost a dime since then.

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