On Wednesday, Apple Computer posted record quarterly earnings and revenues thanks to strong sales of its iPod MP3 players and Macintosh hardware. Given the rampant success of the iPod in recent months, Apple's earnings aren't that surprising. What is surprising, however, is the Mac: According to the company, Apple sold more Macs in the previous quarter than it has in any quarter since before the company launched Mac OS X back in 2001.

In the quarter ending March 31, Apple shipped 1.046 million Macintosh computers, a whopping 43 percent increase over the same quarter a year before. Most of that growth likely came from the new Mac mini model, a $500 Macintosh that competes with low-end PCs and is comprised largely of low-end laptop parts.

Some analysts and Apple fans are crediting the rise in Mac sales to the so-called "halo effect" surrounding the iPod. The idea is that customers who purchase an iPod will become as fixated on Apple products as its most ardent fans and then rush back to the Apple Store and drop thousands of dollars on a new Mac. Despite the upswing in the previous quarter, however, the halo effect is somewhat fanciful: iPods work well with PCs, but users would have to drop years of compatible hardware and software to switch to a Mac, a process that would ultimately be extremely expensive.

Regardless, one can't deny the success that Apple is currently having with both its iPod and Macs. As a long-time fan of the Mac, It's nice to see this once-beleaguered system regain its footing. With a little luck and continued healthy sales, perhaps the Mac can climb out of the market share gutter and reach a wider, more relevant, audience.