Somewhere along the line, Apple went from being Microsoft’s whipping boy to becoming, in some ways, the new Microsoft. Apple sets the standard in digital music, with more than 70% of the music player market and nearly 90% of the song download business. While it still has just 5% of the PC market, Mac sales are on the rise, and the company is attacking vast new markets that have long been coveted by Microsoft. Targets include the so-called digital living room, where Apple hopes to stream Net video fare to the TV via its new Apple TV gizmo, and the mobile communications sector, where it’s rolling the iPhone in hopes of replicating its iPod success. The company, which churns out an astonishing $1 billion a quarter in cash, was cast in the unfamiliar role of bad guy numerous times in the last year—for Steve Jobs’ role in the options backdating scandal and for sweatshop conditions at a contract manufacturer in China, among other things. But barring unexpected product bombs, Apple’s star seems destined to rise farther still.
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