Apple Inc. is an American multinational technology company headquartered in Cupertino, California, that designs, develops, and sells consumer electronics, computer software, and online services. It is considered one of the Big Four of technology along with Amazon, Google, and Facebook.
The company’s hardware products include the iPhone smartphone, the iPad tablet computer, the Mac personal computer, the iPod portable media player, the Apple Watch smartwatch, the Apple TV digital media player, the Apple AirPods wireless earbuds and the HomePod smart speaker. Apple’s software includes the macOS, iOS, iPadOS, watchOS and tvOS operating systems, the iTunes media player, the Safari web browser, and the iLife and iWork creativity and productivity suites, as well as professional applications like Final Cut Pro, Logic Pro, and Xcode. Its online services include the iTunes Store, the iOS App Store, Mac App Store, Apple Music, Apple TV+, iMessage, and iCloud. Other services include Apple Store, Genius Bar, AppleCare, Apple Pay, Apple Pay Cash, and Apple Card.
Apple was founded by Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Ronald Wayne in April 1976 to develop and sell Wozniak’s Apple I personal computer, though Wayne sold his share back within 12 days. It was incorporated as Apple Computer, Inc., in January 1977, and sales of its computers, including the Apple II, grew quickly. Within a few years, Jobs and Wozniak had hired a staff of computer designers and had a production line. Apple went public in 1980 to instant financial success. Over the next few years, Apple shipped new computers featuring innovative graphical user interfaces, such as the original Macintoshin 1984, and Apple’s marketing advertisements for its products received widespread critical acclaim. However, the high price of its products and limited application library caused problems, as did power struggles between executives. In 1985, Wozniak departed Apple amicably and remained an honorary employee, while Jobs and others resigned to found NeXT.
As the market for personal computers expanded and evolved through the 1990s, Apple lost market share to the lower-priced duopoly of Microsoft Windows on Intel PC clones. The board recruited CEO Gil Amelio to what would be a 500-day charge for him to rehabilitate the financially troubled company—reshaping it with layoffs, executive restructuring, and product focus. In 1997, he led Apple to buy NeXT, solving the desperately failed operating system strategy and bringing Jobs back. Jobs pensively regained leadership status, becoming CEO in 2000. Apple swiftly returned to profitability under the revitalizing Think different campaign, as he rebuilt Apple’s status by launching the iMac in 1998, opening the retail chain of Apple Stores in 2001, and acquiring numerous companies to broaden the software portfolio. In January 2007, Jobs renamed the company Apple Inc., reflecting its shifted focus toward consumer electronics, and launched the iPhone to great critical acclaim and financial success. In August 2011, Jobs resigned as CEO due to health complications, and Tim Cook became the new CEO. Two months later, Jobs died, marking the end of an era for the company.
Apple is well known for its size and revenues. Its worldwide annual revenue totaled $265 billion for the 2018 fiscal year. Apple is the world’s largest technology company by revenue and one of the world’s most valuable companies. It is also the world’s third-largest mobile phone manufacturer after Samsung and Huawei. In August 2018, Apple became the first public U.S. company to be valued at over $1 trillion. The company employs 123,000 full-time employees and maintains 504 retail stores in 24 countries as of 2018. It operates the iTunes Store, which is the world’s largest music retailer. As of January 2018, more than 1.3 billion Apple products are actively in use worldwide. The company also has a high level of brand loyalty and is ranked as the world’s most valuable brand. However, Apple receives significant criticism regarding the labor practices of its contractors, its environmental practices and unethical business practices, including anti-competitive behavior, as well as the origins of source materials.