Apple Secures Its Legacy


On this day in economic and financial history...

Say hello to the smartphone revolution! On Jan. 9, 2007, Steve Jobs unveiled Apple's first iPhone, an announcement that coincided with the company's transition from Apple Computer to simply Apple. The first model had no App Store and was originally thought to run OS X before the details of iOS became well-known. A 4-gigabyte version was priced at $499, and an 8-GB version would be sold for $599 through Cingular, which rebranded as AT&T shortly thereafter.

The iconic iPhone has become inextricably linked with the rise of the smartphone in its present form. Earlier "smart" phones were typically built with integrated keyboards after the standard set by Research in Motion with its Blackberries. The first iPhone sold rather slowly at first, but Apple learned from its early deficiencies and continued to upgrade the device. Consumers responded with a fanatical devotion that is now taken for granted, and Apple's sales exploded, approaching 250 million units by the fifth anniversary of the device's release. Research in Motion has never been quite the same.

Without the iPhone, Apple would never have approached a size that made it one of the largest companies in history, and the mobile industry might look quite a bit different. You might also argue that Apple's iPhone has had a huge impact on the Dow Jones Industrial Average . It has certainly dented the fortunes of PC maker Hewlett-Packard , and the frantic efforts of Intel and Microsoft to enter the iPhone-defined mobile space will affect the Dow for years to come, whether these scrambles result in success or failure. AT&T would also be in a weaker position today without years of iPhone exclusivity to help build its smartphone user base.

The origins of a global commodity
The price of oil is determined on a global scale today, because oil is one of the most important global commodities. There was a time, however, when oil was primarily an American commodity with few takers. On Jan. 9, 1862, American oil became part of the international market for the first time. That day, the Pennsylvania-based sailing brig Elizabeth Watts docked in London's harbor, carrying 901 barrels of oil and 428 barrels of kerosene from the Oil Creek oil fields of Pennsylvania. This successful shipment, in the midst of the Civil War, occurred a mere four years after Edwin Drake first struck oil in Titusville.

The uneventful transit reassured nervous shippers and sailors that the flammable goop could be safely transported on long overseas journeys. Within a year, more than 200,000 barrels were exported from Philadelphia, marking the beginning of a robust American oil-exporting industry. American oil exports continued until 1948, when the United States finally became a net oil importer.

There's no doubt that Apple is at the center of technology's largest revolution ever and that longtime shareholders have been handsomely rewarded with incredible gains. However, there is a debate raging as to whether Apple remains a buy. The Motley Fool's senior technology analyst and managing bureau chief is prepared to fill you in on the reasons both to buy and to sell Apple, as well as what opportunities remain for the company (and, more importantly, your portfolio) going forward. To get instant access to his latest thoughts on Apple, simply click here now.

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