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Apple CEO: 'Amazon Fire didn't dent our sales'

'Year of the tablet? Nope. Year of the iPad'

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If purchases of the successful-if-flawed Amazon Fire bit into iPad sales during the holiday season, Apple CEO Tim Cook didn't see it.

"I looked at the data – particularly in the US – on a weekly basis after Amazon launched the Kindle Fire, and in my view there wasn't an obvious effect on the [iPad sales] numbers," Cook told analysts and reporters during a call after Apple announced its impressive first-quarter financial results on Tuesday.

When one analyst asked him if he had heard the speculation that some customers had looked at the $199 Fire, found it wanting, then moved up the cost ladder to the $499-to-$829 iPad, Cook said that, yes, he had heard that theory, but he discounted it.

"Whether that's happening on a very, very large basis, I don't know," he said. "Again, my own view is – looking at our data in the US – there was no obvious change."

But if the iPad didn't tempt prospective purchasers away from lower-priced fondleslabs, it did have an effect on the sales of another of Apple's offerings: the Mac.

"There is cannibalization, clearly, of the Mac by the iPad," he admitted – although with 5.2 million Macs sold during the quarter, a 26 per cent increase over the year-ago quarter, that effect was hardly fatal to Apple's Mac OS X boxes.

Cook added that Apple believes that if anyone is suffering from the iPad's success, it's PC manufacturers. "And there's many more of them to cannibalize," he said, "and so we love that trend. We think it's great for us."

That said, the iPad is making inroads into traditionally strong Mac markets. In K-12 education, for example, Cook said that Apple sold twice as many iPads as Macs – though he didn't provide a time frame. "Generally speaking," he said, "education adopts new technologies fairly slowly, so that's somewhat surprising."

Cook characterized as "remarkable" the sale of over 55 million iPads since the "magical and revolutionary" Cupertinian fondleslab shipped in early April 2010.

iPad sales will continue to grow, Cook said. "I clearly believe, and many others in the company believe, that there will come a day when the tablet market, in units, is larger than the PC market," citing IDC's recent research that showed tablet sales have already exceeded desktop-PC sales in the US.

And when Cook says tablet, he means iPad, and not "limited-function tablets and e-readers" that he relegated into a different category altogether. "There's clearly customers that will buy those," he said, "and I think they'll sell a fair number of units, but I don't think that people who want an iPad will settle for a limited-function [device]."

As for competition from full-function tablets such as, say, the Motolola Xoom, Samsung Galaxy Tab, the less-than-concisely named Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime, and their ilk, Cook was sanguine. "Y'know, last year was supposed to be the year of the tablet," he said. "I think most people would agree that it was the year of the iPad – for the second year in a row."

But when he was asked if the tablet market was simply a "two-horse race" between the iPad and Android-based devices, Cook did admit that not all important players had yet joined that race.

"There's a horse in Redmond that always suits up, and always runs, and will keep running," he said. But no matter how many horses there will eventually be in that race, "We just want to stay ahead and be the lead one." ®

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