Apple started in 1976 as a computer company. In the last decade, however, Apple has expanded into a very intricate company that specializes in much more than just computers. In 2001, Apple broke the barrier with the iPod, eventually becoming the dominant market leader in music players. As well, Apple joined the phone industry in 2007 with the iPhone, which has also been widely successful.
Apple is a consumer goods company, and therefore evaluating its value requires understanding its products and consumers. This can be very difficult because Apple competes with many different companies throughout the different industries it takes part in. A good description from Wikipedia describes Apple: "For reasons varying from its philosophy of comprehensive aesthetic design to its distinctive advertising campaigns, Apple has established a unique reputation in the consumer electronics industry." One of the most unique things about Apple is that it has a very strong customer base. This is extremely important in understanding Apple!
Another thing to know about Apple is that a lot of press is associated with their CEO, Steven P. Jobs. He is seen as the architect of many of Apple's amazing products, and the reason for their success. His presentations at Apple's media events are "electrifying" and revolutionary. Given his superstar image, his status and health as Apple's CEO ties into how investors value Apple, and for this reason we must follow him. For instance, earlier in the year there was an inaccurate report that he sustained a heart attack, and rumors flew through the internet, briefly dropping Apple's stock price 5%.
Comparing a Steve Jobs presentation to most presentations is nearly impossible — he’s in a league all his own. In my opinion, Apple chief executive Steve Jobs is the most charismatic pitchman in business today. His presentations are brilliant demonstrations of visual storytelling that motivate customers, employees, investors, and the entire computer industry.1
I have created a page for each of Apple's major products. Apple also offers two other major products (iTunes Store and Apple TV) that I will not discuss, however, you are still responsible for following. In addition to the three products below, spend some time at Apple.com and familiarize yourself with their website.