Cook confronts analysts on iPad sales

No sooner did Apple announce its second quarter 2014 financial results than financial analysts and reporters called it a miss, because iPad sales were lower than analysts' expectations. In his preamble during the conference call to discuss those results, Apple CEO Tim Cook took a moment to address the discrepancy.

"iPad sales came in at the high end of our estimates," Cook emphasized, uncharacteristically taking issue with analysts' projections.

Cook suggested that analysts had a skewed perspective on Apple's prospective sales for the quarter because of two factors: Apple greatly increased iPad channel inventory for the same quarter a year ago. Separately, Apple exited the December quarter with a large backlog of orders for the iPad mini with Retina display, while it worked down that inventory over the quarter.

Cook's explanation of channel inventory was expanded upon by Luca Maestri, Apple's VP of finance and corporate controller. Maestri explained that iPad sales declined only 3 percent year-over-year in sell-through: the number of iPads in new customers' hands. That's a slightly less harsh measure than the 16 percent decline in sell-in, or the number of iPads actually in distribution.

Cook also noted that about two thirds of Apple's iPad customers have never owned an iPad before — a strong indication that plenty of new customers still want the iPad.

The iPad remains the fastest growing product in Apple's history, Cook said later. The company has sold over 210 million iPads to date.

"We've come a long way very quickly," he said.

Asked if Microsoft Office for iPad would positively affect iPad sales, Cook said, "Office I believe does help. I believe it's very unclear to say how much."

Cook suggested that if Microsoft had released Office for iPad earlier, it would have done even better for Microsoft, owing to changing behavior of iPad customers and the availability of Microsoft alternatives, such as Apple's own iWork apps, which now ship free with the iPad.

"I wholeheartedly welcome Microsoft to the App Store. Our customers are clearly responding in a good way," said Cook.