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Apple announces £3.6bn profit so far in 2011, as cash pile approaches £40bn

There's gold in them there technology hills, and none are more stuffed with cash than the hill occupied by Apple. The company has announced gobsmacking earnings for the first quarter of 2011

There's gold in them there technology hills, and none are more stuffed with cash than the hill occupied by Apple. The company has announced gobsmacking earnings for the first quarter of 2011. The sale of 18.65 million iPhones, 9.02 million iPods, 4.69 million iPads and 3.76 million Macs equals a head-spinning £3.65bn of profit.

That's three and a half billion quid of pure profit going directly into the back pocket of Apple's collective pair of Levi's 501s. The total amount of revenue raked in by Apple products and services scraped close to £15bn.

By way of comparison, Google's revenue in the same period was around £5bn. That's comparing Apple with oranges -- Google makes money from advertising while Apple has shops in every city and sells both hardware and software -- but it gives you an idea of how far Apple is ahead of even the biggest names in the technology industry.

That eye-watering profit is almost double what the fruit-flavoured phone flogger made in the first quarter of last year. But Apple has had a big year -- the iPhone 4 came out, and then became available on a second phone network in the US. That opened up a huge new pool of Verizon customers, while the iPhone's popularity helped to drive sales of iMacs and MacBooks up by a quarter since last year.

And let's not forget the iPad, which, over the past year, has carved out a brand new market for tablet PCs, and inspired a raft of imitators. But sales haven't met expectations since the start of this year -- 4.69 million iPads have been sold, as opposed to a predicted 6 or 7 million. Still, four and a half million iPads would stack pretty high.

The Japanese earthquake may have had an impact on the production of many gadgets, including the iPad, but that hardly bears mentioning in light of the suffering in the country. Savvy buyers may also have held off investing in the original iPad because of the fevered speculation surrounding the release of a new model on tech websites like this one 'ere.

As it continues to make mad money, Apple is already sitting on a cash pile that would make Scrooge McDuck cough up a gold brick. After this year's profits are wheelbarrowed in and poured onto the pile, the Cupertino-based company will be sitting on £39.7bn. That's enough to buy 99,250,000 iPad 2s -- or buy everyone in the UK an iPad 2 and iPod touch and still have enough change to take a few years off work.

What the heck is Apple going to do with all that money? Stick your suggestions in the comments section below.