Apple Secures Its Legacy

On this day in economic and financial history...

Say hello to the smartphone revolution! On Jan. 9, 2007, Steve Jobs unveiled Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL  ) first iPhone, an announcement that coincided with the company's transition from Apple Computer to simply Apple. The first model had no App Store and was originally thought to run OS X before the details of iOS became well-known. A 4-gigabyte version was priced at $499, and an 8-GB version would be sold for $599 through Cingular, which rebranded as AT&T (NYSE: T  ) shortly thereafter.

The iconic iPhone has become inextricably linked with the rise of the smartphone in its present form. Earlier "smart" phones were typically built with integrated keyboards after the standard set by Research in Motion (NASDAQ: BBRY  ) with its Blackberries. The first iPhone sold rather slowly at first, but Apple learned from its early deficiencies and continued to upgrade the device. Consumers responded with a fanatical devotion that is now taken for granted, and Apple's sales exploded, approaching 250 million units by the fifth anniversary of the device's release. Research in Motion has never been quite the same.

Without the iPhone, Apple would never have approached a size that made it one of the largest companies in history, and the mobile industry might look quite a bit different. You might also argue that Apple's iPhone has had a huge impact on the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI  ) . It has certainly dented the fortunes of PC maker Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ  ) , and the frantic efforts of Intel (NASDAQ: INTC  ) and Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT  ) to enter the iPhone-defined mobile space will affect the Dow for years to come, whether these scrambles result in success or failure. AT&T would also be in a weaker position today without years of iPhone exclusivity to help build its smartphone user base.

The origins of a global commodity
The price of oil is determined on a global scale today, because oil is one of the most important global commodities. There was a time, however, when oil was primarily an American commodity with few takers. On Jan. 9, 1862, American oil became part of the international market for the first time. That day, the Pennsylvania-based sailing brig Elizabeth Watts docked in London's harbor, carrying 901 barrels of oil and 428 barrels of kerosene from the Oil Creek oil fields of Pennsylvania. This successful shipment, in the midst of the Civil War, occurred a mere four years after Edwin Drake first struck oil in Titusville.

The uneventful transit reassured nervous shippers and sailors that the flammable goop could be safely transported on long overseas journeys. Within a year, more than 200,000 barrels were exported from Philadelphia, marking the beginning of a robust American oil-exporting industry. American oil exports continued until 1948, when the United States finally became a net oil importer.

There's no doubt that Apple is at the center of technology's largest revolution ever and that longtime shareholders have been handsomely rewarded with incredible gains. However, there is a debate raging as to whether Apple remains a buy. The Motley Fool's senior technology analyst and managing bureau chief is prepared to fill you in on the reasons both to buy and to sell Apple, as well as what opportunities remain for the company (and, more importantly, your portfolio) going forward. To get instant access to his latest thoughts on Apple, simply click here now.


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Comments from our Foolish Readers

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  • Report this Comment On January 09, 2013, at 11:44 AM, TimKnows wrote:

    It's fun to look back on history and see where we have come from, now we have to turn our eyes toward the future. What does Apple offer today? I don't see a singe thing for all of 2013.

  • Report this Comment On January 09, 2013, at 1:41 PM, magnaman1969 wrote:

    RIM can reflect back too to the glory days. The writing is on the wall for Apple.

  • Report this Comment On January 09, 2013, at 1:45 PM, Arthur1111 wrote:

    2013 is RIMM's comeback year. BB10 will be the best phone on the market. Apple and the droids will try to follow in 2014.

  • Report this Comment On January 09, 2013, at 6:17 PM, jbelkin wrote:

    You do point out the only obvious hinderance to Apple's share price reflecting its true value and powerhouse positiom - that Apple is the first American highest market cap stock (and maybe the world history's?) that is NOT based on a monopoly market position but mostly consumer sales every day & every quarter so it scares the crap out of WS who after 13 years straight have either way underguessed Apple's earnings or somewhat over-estimate Apple's earnings - and now they can no longer get whisper numbers and private meetings - look dumber and dumber as ever - they were never that smart, just they had private numbers to look at. Apple has built in 3 YEARS a business unit that might outgross Google in its ENTIRETY in 2013! ipad business unit - $32 B in sales, Google - $37 B in sales. How much should WS properly value a business unit that is larger than all but about 100 Fortune 500 companies in THREE FREAKIN YEARS? !

    And yea, RIM will hang on as long as the beeper actually hung on from when the first nail was coffined in - so RIm will be around another 10 years but more than 5% of the market, nope. It's NOT the best phone that wins. It's the best BRAND, the best ecosystem and the best retailer that wins. Um, that would Apple and not RIM.

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