Apple's rolling in the dough, teases on netbooks

Apple gave its quarterly earnings call tonight, and it was mostly pretty good. Mac sales dipped a bit -- three percent -- over the year-ago quarter. This is easily explainable: computers are expensive, Macs are particularly expensive, and there's a recession on, so people don't have as much money to spend on nonessentials -- like, say, expensive computers -- that they had a year ago. Nevertheless, it's worth noting that Mac sales declined more slowly than the industry as a whole -- worldwide computer sales dipped by seven percent in the same span. Apple's profit margins also went up a bit, to 36.4 percent from 32.9, no doubt because the company has been resisting persistent call to release a netbook, the ultimate high-sales, low-margin product.

Oh, yeah, how about that netbook? Tim Cook gave a variation on the same non-answer on netbooks that's Apple's been handing out for months, which, as transcribed by AppleInsider, went something like this:

I see cramped keyboards, terrible software, junky hardware, very small screens. And just not a consumer experience and not something we would put the Mac brand on, quite frankly. It's not a segment we're interested in and we don't believe customers are interested in ... A customer who wants to buy a small computer for e-mail or Web browsing may want to buy an iPod touch or an iPhone.

That sounds like a pretty strong denial, which is how a lot of people took it ("Apple dismisses netbook trend," "Apple to netbooks: Drop dead"). Of course, Cook then teased by saying that "if we find a way to deliver a product that makes an innovative contribution," Apple might make an offering in that space. That's the non-answer part. It is more evidence that if there is such a thing as an Apple netbook or tablet, it won't look like a standard-issue netbook, which is a stripped down laptop. It will be the logical development of the iPhone platform.

Speaking of iPhones (and iPods), Apple sold a gazillion of 'em and made a bunch of money, blah blah, what else is new. The numbers not only boosted Apple's earnings but AT&T's as well.

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