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by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Jason Snell

Fun With Charts: When Apple was in the red

Note: This story has not been updated since 2020.

So I was researching my chart about Apple in the 2000s when I came across a remarkable historical document on Apple’s website:

CUPERTINO, California—January 15, 2003—Apple® today announced financial results for its fiscal 2003 first quarter ended December 28, 2002. For the quarter, the Company posted a net loss of $8 million, or $.02 per share. These results compare to a net profit of $38 million, or $.11 per diluted share, in the year-ago quarter. Revenues for the quarter were $1.47 billion, up 7 percent from the year-ago quarter, and gross margins were 27.6 percent, down from 30.7 percent in the year-ago quarter. International sales accounted for 43 percent of the quarter’s revenues.

That was 17 years ago. And it was the last time Apple lost money in a fiscal quarter.

Apple actually lost money in both fiscal 2001 and 2002. Our memory of Apple’s history involves Jobs returning in 1997, the iMac in 1998, and the iPod in 2001, leading the company into a glorious future. The fact is, after a few years of a return to profitability, Apple went in the hole in 2001 and 2002. The iPod began to pick up speed in 2003, and after two years of modest profits, things started growing and then exploded with the release of the iPhone.

Here’s another fun note from that 17-year-old press release:

Apple shipped 743 thousand Macintosh® units during the quarter, about even with the year-ago quarter.

Apple generated $1.1 billion in revenue off of those 743,000 Macs. Apple doesn’t release Mac unit sales figures anymore, but on its most recent fiscal quarter, Apple generated $7.2 billion in Mac revenue. So while the story of Apple from 2003 to today is really a story of the iPod and then the iPhone, in the background the Mac business increased by a whole lot.

And Apple doesn’t lose money anymore.

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