Apple's quarterly and final year earning report shows improved sales of iBooks and PowerMac G4s, with declining sales for other products in its range.

Apple sold 32 per cent more iBooks worldwide than it achieved in the previous quarter. PowerMac sales also increased 10 per cent against the company's previous quarter. However, iMac sales shrank 4 per cent, and PowerBook sales declined 46 per cent, possibly reflecting the consumer appeal of its iBook range.

Away from the percentages, Apple shifted 294,000 iMacs, and 57,000 PowerBooks - the company shifted 571,000 iMacs and 86,000 PowerBooks in the same quarter last year. iBook sales threaten to overtake iMac sales in today's market - 251,000 iBooks were sold, contrasting with 89,000 in the last year quarter.

American pie The Americas remain Apple's strongest market, with 532,000 Macs shipping, contrasting with 688,000 in the year-ago quarter.

Sales to the EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) market increased slightly in comparison to Apple's previous quarter - 173,000 Macs were sold, up 21,000 units on the previous quarter. However, sales were down by 51,000 units in comparison to the year ago quarter.

The Japanese market continues to weaken, Apple's chief financial officer Fred Anderson described it as "geographically the weakest segment". In Japan, Mac sales totalled 98,000. 156,000 Macs were sold in Japan in the same quarter last year, 128,000 in the preceding quarter.

Trimming inventory Apple's summary data for its financial results show a 24 per cent decline in unit sales and a 22 per cent fall in revenues year-on-year. However, year on year the figures show Apple has achieved dramatic success in terms of trimming its inventories, the company now has $11 million worth of stock on hand compared to $33 million in the same period last year.

Gross margins were 30.1 per cent this quarter - they stood at 25.1 per cent in the previous quarter. Savings here came from the decreased prices of key components, such as LCD displays and RAM modules.

Apple maintains its strategy to open 25 own-branded retail stores by the end of 2001, with 15 due to be open by the end of this month. However, where the company originally predicted its stores would break even by December, Apple's CFO now warns that it expects a slight loss, due to the loss of consumer confidence.

Third-party boon The company did reveal that sales of third-party software had been better than predicted, motivating Apple to double the number of third-party software solutions available in its stores.

Macintosh users can expect to see more advertising and special promotions during the next quarter. Apple's CFO also hinted that margins may decline, attributing this, among other things, to a greater mix of consumer products.

Despite announcing cautious expectations for the next quarter, corporate balance sheets remain strong with $4.3 billion in cash and short-term investments. In another note, Apple revealed that 43 per cent of Apple's revenue came from sales through its online Apple Store - up from 40 per cent in the previous quarter.

The future remains cloudy for business globally. Anderson remarked: "Given the turbulent world, visibility for the upcoming quarter is not good." The company offered no guidance for its next financial year because of the global market uncertainty.