This month, Apple reported its seventh straight profitable quarter, safely removed from the gush of red ink that marked what seemed to be its death spiral two years ago. Apple's stock price has jumped nearly 50 percent since April to reach its highest levels in six years.
But there's always more to the Apple story than what traditional business indicators can measure. When it's at its best, the company has tapped into deep-seated emotional rhythms in America's consumer culture, becoming one of the few "lifestyle brands" in a personal computer realm defined by sameness--be it of software (Microsoft's Windows), of chips (Intel's) or of drab, beige casings (practically every PC).
Last August, Apple introduced the hood-shaped iMac computer, whose loud colors ("flavors") have become synonymous with the reinvented company. Nearly 2 million of the machines have been sold in less than a year, (Steve) Jobs reported in New York last week. "They've become almost pervasive in our culture," he gushed.
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