Crunch time for Apple?

Three big stories this week all suggest that the coolest tech company in America is starting to feel the economic chill. Monday dawned with the news

Three big stories this week all suggest that the coolest tech company in America is starting to feel the economic chill.

Monday dawned with the news that sales of Apple computers in November were virtually identical to the year before - while Windows PC posted a welcome 7 per cent growth.

Both platforms are seeing growth in notebook computers but collapsing sales of desktops - with the iMac selling 38 per cent fewer than November 2007.

This led Goldman Sachs to remove its 'buy' recommendation for Apple shares for the first time in over two years - which then politely slid a few cents.

The news was quickly followed by Apple's announcement that January's Macworld Expo in San Francisco - a highlight in any techie's calendar - will be the company's last, causing the swift cancellation of the Apple Expo in Paris, too.

Finally, the much-rumoured $99 4GB Walmart iPhone 3G turned out to be. a $197 8GB iPhone 3G with a couple of bucks (literally) knocked off.

While no one's suggesting (yet) that Apple is 'pulling a Motorola', it's clear that even the hippest companies aren't immune to tough times.

Analysts here are particularly worried about Apple's reliance on consumer luxuries like iPhones and iPods that are likely to be the first to suffer as consumers hunker down for a recession.

As for Apple's final Macworld? New iMacs might excite the fan-boys but I don't think anyone is expecting them to fill that 38 per cent hole.