Apple strikes it rich in Q2; will this be the year of Apple TV?

Jim O'Neil

So, let's see: the stock market is up today because Apple reported (and this is an understatement) "strong earnings." How about, "wow earnings" instead?

The iPad is continuing to sell like hotcakes (3.27 million sold so far), as is the iPhone (overall, 8.4 million iPhones sold, the antenna-challenged iPhone 4 rolled-out with just three days left in the quarter is really a non-factor), and Apple said it sold a ton of iPods (9.4 million) and Macs (3.47 million). Apple Tuesday said it added up to its best-ever quarter with $15.7 billion in revenues (up 62 percent over last year), and a whopping 78 percent increase in profit to $3.25 billion.

As I said, wow.

COO Tim Cook was asked about the iPad cannibalizing Mac growth. Not surprisingly, he said, essentially, he didn't care. "If it turns out that the iPad cannibalizes PCs, then I think it is fantastic for us because there's a lot of PCs to cannibalize," he said.

Here's another interesting tidbit from the earnings call: Apple said 80 percent of Fortune 100 companies are deploying or doing pilot tests of the iPhone, with another 50 percent using or testing the iPad.

It wasn't very long ago that those same corporations--and their IT departments--were looking at the iPhone as a, well, toy, unsuitable for business use. How times change.

Among the questions that essentially went unanswered, or perhaps unasked, was the future of Apple's massive data center being built in North Carolina, a $1 billion, 500,000-square-foot facility that's five times as large as Apple's current data center in California. Apple execs, when asked about it, said the build was on track to be wrapped up by the end of the year, adding only, "And then we plan to use it."

But use it how? Will it be the heart of Apple's iPhone video chat app, FaceTime? Or, perhaps, will it be the central nervous system for a revisited and streamlined Apple TV running on the new iOS 4.

In Apple's press release, CEO Steve Jobs said the iPad was off to a "terrific start." He also said that, more than ever before, people were buying Macs. But, he also gave a little tickle to the future, saying Apple had "amazing new products still to come this year."

One could easily be a refaced Apple TV offering, the "hobby" that Apple has kept alive for years, quietly. Rumors have been floated consistently in recent weeks that a new Apple TV offering isn't that far off, and that it might even be embedded in a true Apple TV set, although the company has equally as consistently said it's not interested in manufacturing televisions.

But integrating an Apple iPad or iPhone with an Apple TV set tied to an Apple TV platform really isn't that far fetched. Is it? After all, even critics who like to point out that Apple loves closed ecosystems, have to admit that an end-to-end solution like that would be a nice fit. Fans will simply say that Apple likes to solve problems. And Apple TV could be a heck of a solution. -Jim