So the iPad, Apple?s first tablet computer, is now officially launched and on its way to an eagerly waiting Apple community. And I use ?first? advisedly, as there is much evidence of component purchases and design blueprints which indicate that the iPad is just the first of a new line of similar devices which Apple will be launching. So what next? A ?multi-touch? touchscreen iMac is now the next hotly rumoured product.

How much bigger can Apple get?

But since the beginning of this year, Apple has announced some quite staggering – actually mind-boggling – financial statistics: quarterly sales revenue of $15.68 billion (£9.8 billion) and a net quarterly profit of $3.38 billion (£2.11 billion). Sales outside the USA accounted for 58 per cent of this revenue, and gross margins were 40.9 per cent (yes, you read that right, although this margin is enhanced by its iTunes music store sales).

Apple is now officially a $50 billion company, and has more cash in the bank than any other American computer hardware manufacturer.

But if you look further at the actual product sales built in to these figures, it gets even more amazing: 3.4 million Macs (70 per cent were portable), 8.7 million iPhones and 21 million iPods sold in just three months.

So where can Apple go next, with all of the huge capital resources it has at its disposal? Well, as cloud computing is growing, and Apple is already there with the superb MobileMe service, how about a move into internet service provision? It could easily swallow many of the internet providers out there currently, including AOL, which already supplies the backbone for its iChat IM service, and even build a new search engine to rival Google, perhaps.

Perhaps Apple should consider a move back into home gaming systems; it was in that sector years ago with Pippin, so is it time it returned to be a new challenger for Nintendo, Sony, Microsoft and company?

All I can tell you for certain is that we won’t know exactly what Apple’s next move is until Steve Jobs takes to the stage and announces it.

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