The online Apple Store turned 10 years old on 10 November.

Apple opened its online retail operation in the US on that day in 1997, picking up $500,000 in orders and generating 4.4 milllion hits in just 12 hours when the service launched.

The company introduced its UK online store in May 1998, in Sweden the following September, while most other European states saw online stores opening by January 1999. Apple opened its Apple Store for Education in May 1998.

Apple created its store using NeXT's WebObjects software, which the company acquired on purchase of Steve Jobs' second computer company. Ironically, WebObjects had already been used to power Dell's online retail store for the preceding year, as observed by Italian Mac news website, SetteB.IT.

The introduction of the online store preceded the launch of the legendary iMac range. Apple was offering computers based on beige G3 processors running System 8, and the iPod wasn't even a glimmer in Steve Jobs' eye when the store appeared.

Apple's retail segment (which includes both the online and bricks and mortar network of stores) returned an impressive $1.25 billion to the company's revenue during the fourth quarter of the 2007 financial year.

Retail revenues hit $936 million in the same quarter last year and $915 million in its third quarter. Fourth- quarter revenues lent $268 million in profit, up 46 per cent sequentially.

Apple sold 473,000 Macs through its retail operations, 50 per cent of which went to first time Mac users, the company claims.

Apple will open its first retail store in China's Beijing in summer next year.