iPhone sales boom but iPad disappoints Wall Street

CEO Tim Cook takes shot at Microsoft's Surface tablet, calls it 'compromised, confusing'

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The Mac's growth year-over-year, while tiny -- just 0.6% -- was better than the computer industry average by a mile. Global personal computer sales in the third quarter were down between 8% and 9%, according to Gartner and IDC, which released their estimates two weeks ago.

But there's trouble ahead for the Mac, namely the iMac, which Apple refreshed this week. The problem: It won't have any to sell until next month, and the largest model won't be available until December.

"We'll be constrained for the full quarter in a significant way," Cook said of iMac supplies during the crucial fourth quarter. "There will be a short amount of time during the quarter to manufacture and ramp those, and I expect the demand to be robust."

Gottheil suspected that screen availability was the reason why the new iMacs won't ship for weeks. "Certainly something challenged them about the new iMacs," he said.

But he backed Apple's decision to unveil the new desktop computers this week rather than wait until enough were in the channel. "This was a gigantic roll-out this week ... they usually roll out one category at a time, but they had more to say about the iMacs than what would fit in a press release."

Gottheil thought it was better that Apple announced the new iMacs, even without any to sell, or without a way for customers to pre-order them, in the hope that that would pacify customers, "lock" them in to the iMac before they decided on a Windows all-in-one.

"But Apple's not been feeling any love for their desktops," Gottheil said.

Cook also used the earnings call, as he has a habit of doing, to ding the competition.

When asked about Microsoft's Surface RT tablet, which went on sale late Thursday in New York City's Times Square and will be available in about 60 stores in the U.S. and Canada on Friday morning, Cook admitted he hadn't touched one yet. But that didn't stop him from disparaging Microsoft's first-ever tablet.

"[From] what we're reading ... it's a fairly compromised, confusing product," Cook said of the $499 Windows RT tablet. "So I think one of the toughest things you do ... is to make hard trade-offs and decide what a product should be. I suppose you could design a car that flies and floats, but I don't think it would do all of those things very well."

Six months ago, and long before Microsoft took the wraps off the Surface, Cook had said something similar, calling tablet-keyboard combinations and so-called "hybrids" a cross between "a toaster and a refrigerator."

In after hours trading late Thursday, Apple shares were down $7.29, a loss of around 1.2%.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is gkeizer@ix.netcom.com.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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