iCash: Apple's money making machine

iPad 2 Image copyright AFP
Image caption iPad sales are up 183%

On examining Apple's latest quarterly results its rivals may turn to the poet Shelley: "Look on my works ye Mighty and despair!"

The company is turning into one of the most extraordinary cash-generating machines ever built, and just keeps on growing.

Revenues rose to $28.6bn in the quarter, up from $15.7bn last year, while profits soared to $7.3bn, more than twice as much as in the same quarter in 2010.

Just to put that in perspective for UK readers, Apple made more profit in one quarter than the immensely successful retailer Tesco did in the whole of last year.

Even scarier, Apple's spare cash soared by more than $10bn in the quarter to $76.2bn.

And what's piling up this mountain of money at Apple's Cupertino headquarters? What the company described as dramatic growth in iPhone and iPad sales, up 142% and 183% respectively.

Together they earned revenues of nearly $20bn in the quarter - so two thirds of the computer company's revenues are now coming from mobile devices which did not exist four years ago.

The statistics are dizzying - but sometimes one picture - or rather a graphic - is worth a thousand numbers. Look at this chart compiled by the Macworld site, showing the growth of revenues by product line:

Image copyright Other

It illustrates just how rapidly first the iPhone and now the iPad have turned Apple from a pretty successful computer and MP3 player business into a mobile megalith now apparently dominant in the communications industry of the future.

Scary stuff then for rivals. But they may turn again to Shelley for comfort. The poem Ozymandias from which that line in my opening paragraph comes is in fact a tale of the inevitable decline of an empire. It ends:

"Round the decay, of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare, the lone and level sands stretch far away."

In technology, mighty empires grow and then crumble at an ever more rapid rate. But there are no signs yet of any decay setting in at Apple.