SOARING demand for iPads and iPhones has revived the fortunes of computer giant Apple to the extent that it will create over 500 jobs at its European HQ.
Apple plans to fill a range of positions, including sales and customer support jobs, at its Cork plant -- just a decade after business slumped and it was forced to axe almost half its workforce.
Apple currently employs 2,800 here. After its new recruitment programme ends, it will have 3,200 staff, bringing the size of the workforce just behind the country's largest private sector employer, Intel.
The 500 jobs will be created over the next 18 months, while up to 200 extra construction jobs are expected to be created to build a new customer support complex.
The customer support centre, which will serve customers in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, India and parts of Southeast Asia, will be part of a new three-storey office block near Apple's Hollyhill base.
The US firm has sought planning permission for the office complex, which will be the hub of a new technology campus.
And many more job announcements can be expected in the technology sector in the coming months, according to IDA Chief Executive Barry O'Leary.
"This is a great boost, particularly on the back of the 500 jobs at pharmaceutical company Mylan that were announced earlier this week," he told the Irish Independent.
"It's a pretty significant statement about Ireland from the world's most valuable company and of great value in helping the IDA market Ireland abroad.
"There is nothing like being able to put out a message that is evidence-based.
"Workers will be employed in a range of functions. The main ones will be sales and technical support but there will also be jobs in logistics and financial shared services, manufacturing and supply.
"Some are already up on the Apple website."
The news was welcomed by business leaders and politicians.
Cork Chamber president John Mullins said it was a tremendous vote of confidence for the south west and Ireland.
Enterprise Minister Richard Bruton said the investment followed intensive negotiations between the US firm, the Government and the IDA.
It marks a radical turnabout for Apple, which in 1999 transferred production of its best-selling iMac computer from Cork to South Korea and axed 450 of its 1,000 strong workforce at Hollyhill.
But the multinational later designated Cork as its European headquarters and a key global sales support hub and has seen major expansion in the last decade.
Such has been the success of its sales support operation that the firm now employs three times more people in Ireland than when it was manufacturing iMac computers.
Over the five-month period to February, Apple's revenues from the countries serviced by the Cork centre soared by 55pc.
This has largely been driven by demand for its iPhone and iPad ranges -- with a further sales peak expected with the launch of the iPhone 5 by next Christmas.
The firm broke the 2,000- employee mark for the first time in late 2010 and has repeatedly advertised for sales and support staff over the past 18 months.
Apple, which set up in Hollyhill in Cork in 1981 after being founded in the US in 1976, saw its market capitalisation soar to €350bn last month.
At the height of the banking crisis in the US, its financial reserves were briefly valued as greater than those of the US government.