With the way Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) not only straddles the burgeoning tablet and smartphone markets but also holds sway across the computer, home-entertainment, and media fields, the moves it makes can have an impact on the future of hundreds of companies. With that in mind, we're taking a look at the week in Apple news to see how the latest activity affects the Cupertino giant, its suppliers, and even its competitors.

Apple does what Apple does best: blows out earnings
On Monday night, Apple released earnings and roared past expectations. But we didn't see a spike in Apple's price, thanks to concerns about iPad sales (only 4.2 million sold) and declining gross margins. However, there are a couple areas I think investors would be wise to consider:

  • When the iPad was originally released, no one was predicting that it would sell north of 10 million units before the end of the year. In fact, some analysts were pegging sales at only 1 million in the calendar year. Apple's stock has shot up by 30% since the iPad's release (versus a Nasdaq composite that's up by only 2%), so it's not surprising to see some pullback. However, the iPad is still on a stunning sales pace.
  • The coming quarters should see additional points of iPad distribution from retailers including Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT), Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN), and Verizon (NYSE: VZ). And as the iPad gets sold in more places before the holiday season, sales could see an additional boost. If iPad sales of "only" 4.2 million caused you to anxiously hyperventilate into a paper bag, you can chill out for now: The holiday season should be the real test of how much traction the iPad has.
  • The gross-margin situation is likely to improve in the future. You can't fault investors for closely watching Apple's gross margins; selling a premium product at higher prices is what allows Apple to capture the most profits from its mobile devices, despite having just a slice of its competitors' market share. Driven by the launch of the iPhone 4, Apple sold 14.1 million iPhones last quarter, 91% higher than its sales last year. However, a launch of that size stretches supply chains, adds costly capital investments, and makes manufacturers run extra shifts. As the iPhone 4 continues its production, expect costs to decline from last quarter and provide a "surprising" boost to gross margins in coming quarters.

Read more about Apple's earnings, or check out Tim Beyers' take that investors overreacted to less-than-expected iPad sales.

Steve Jobs: the new Larry Ellison?
After earnings were released, Steve Jobs made a surprise appearance on the company's earnings call with analysts. He didn't mince his words as he took aim at criticisms of Apple and its core rivals in the smartphone race.

  • About Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM): Jobs said Apple has now passed RIM in sales, and he doesn't "see them catching up in the foreseeable future."
  • About Google (Nasdaq: GOOG): There's too much to directly quote here, but Jobs took the time to take jabs at Android's reported phone-activation figures and also questioned Android's openness.

Both quotes led to immediate responses from RIM and Google, along with plenty of media attention. Leave it to Steve Jobs to stir up the hornet's nest right when the idea of a winner-take-all "platform war" was losing momentum to the idea that a set of mobile operating systems could co-exist.

Check out fellow Fool Rick Munarriz's take on Jobs' rant.

Back to Mac
On Wednesday, Apple conducted its "Back to Mac" event, at which it rolled out a series of product updates and new hardware. Of note were the following announcements:

  • Apple commented on AutoDesk's (Nasdaq: ADSK) return to the Mac. The powerful engineering software had been absent from Apple systems for nearly 15 years. AutoDesk's decision to come back to the Mac highlights Apple's growing relevance in computing: Just last week, researcher IDC reported that Apple had become the third largest shipper of PCs by volume, cracking the 10% market-share barrier.
  • The company also announced a Mac app store, which continues the trend of integrating Apple's mobile iOS with its desktop operating system, Mac OS X.
  • Finally, Apple unveiled a refreshed MacBook Air line. The MacBook Air has been traditionally lumped in with Apple TV as a rare underperforming Apple product, but Apple is more aggressively pricing the new lineup. An 11.6-inch model will now start at $999.

Read more about Apple's move to target the enterprise market, along with its product rollouts this week.

That's it for this week's Apple news. If you're searching for other opportunities in the mobile world, we've created a special report featuring a mobile giant that The Motley Fool has put its own money behind. Get instant access to this report right now.

Eric Bleeker owns no shares of the companies listed above. Google and Wal-Mart are Motley Fool Inside Value recommendations. Google is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers pick. Apple and Amazon.com are Motley Fool Stock Advisor selections. The Fool owns shares of Apple, Autodesk, Google, and Wal-Mart, and it has written covered calls on Autodesk. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.