This might sound hard to believe, but a bit more than a decade ago, Apple was on the brink of bankruptcy. Apple Computer Inc., now back from near oblivion, is blazing a trail through the digital world with innovation and creativity that has been missing from the company for the past 20 years. The unique feature of Apple’s competitive advantages is that they come from customers and users, not Apple employees. That’s right; the company welcomes products created by consumers to sell to consumers, a trend new to business. Capitalizing on the iPod With millions of iPods in the hands of consumers, many people are finding ways to capitalize on the product. John Lin created a prototype of a remote control for the iPod and took his prototype to Macworld, where he found success. A few months later, Lin’s company had Apple’s blessing and a commitment for shelf space in its retail stores. “This is how Apple supports the iPod economy,” Lin said. In the iPod-dominated market, hundreds of companies have been inspired to develop more than 500 accessories—everything from rechargers for the car to $1,500 Fendi bags. Eric Tong, vice president at Belkin, a cable and peripheral manufacturer, believes that 75 percent of all iPod owners purchase at least one accessory—selling over 30 million accessories to date. With most of the products priced between $10 and $200, that puts the iPod economy well over $300 million and perhaps as high as $6 billion. Popular iPod accessories include: ■ Altec Lansing Technologies—iPod speakers and recharger dock ($150). ■ Belkin—TuneCast mobile FM transmitter ($40). ■ Etymotic Research—high-end earphones ($150). ■ Griffin Technology—iTrip FM transmitter ($35). ■ Kate Spade—Geneva faux-croc mini iPod holder ($55). ■ Apple—socks set in six colors: green, purple, blue, orange, pink, and gray ($29). ■ Apple—digital camera connector ($29).