A string of successes that began, arguably, with its OS X operating system and continued through iPod, iTunes, Apple Store, MacBook, iPhone and App Store drove Apple's stock price from $3.28 in December 1997 to more than $210 last month and has lent an almost comedic gravitas to each Apple product launch. With Apple fresh off a stellar fiscal first-quarter, holiday-season earnings report and the launch of its iPad tablet today that's just slightly less coveted than the two that Moses brought down from Mount Sinai, can the company still function beneath the weight of its expectations?
" Apple has done a good job of balancing the 'wow' versus the 'now,' " says Ross Rubin, executive director of industry analysis at NPD Group. "A large part of the success has been developing those products, but also in how those products have been marketed and sold."
If Steve Jobs and Co. are sweating over product development and innovation, it's not showing. In 2005, well before the iPhone, MacBook, iPod Touch or even Apple TV slipped into the consumer conscience and revenue was roughly $14 billion, Apple spent $535 million on research and development. Last year, when Apple's revenue grew to more than $36 billion, the company spent $1.3 billion searching for the next big thing. That's just under 4% in both cases, with a slightly lesser share spent in 2009.