Apple crushes sales records, hits revenue 'home run'

iPhone sales up 128%, iPad up 111% over same quarter a year ago

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While global PC sales as a whole contracted in the fourth quarter by between 0.6% and 1.4%, Apple sold 26% more Macs in the period than it did in the same stretch the year before.

Apple sold 3.7 million laptops and almost 1.5 million desktops, representing gains of 28% and 21%, respectively, over the same period of 2010.

Peter Oppenheimer, Apple's chief financial officer, again cited strong sales of the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro lines, as well as the iMac, as the foundation of last quarter's figures.

Both notebook and desktop sales were records for Apple.

However, Macs still account for a small percentage of total personal computer sales. Earlier this month, research firm IDC estimated that worldwide sales reached 92.7 million in the last three months of 2011.

After Oppenheimer brought up the subject of Apple's cash-on-hand -- it now has a record $98 billion -- he and Cook spent significant time answering questions from analysts about what the company intended to do with it.

Neither man disclosed any concrete plans for the money.

But Gottheil read the discussion as a hint that Apple would make a move sooner than later. "They initiated the discussion of the cash pile, which they don't do, and that makes me think they're going to announce something soon," Gottheil said.

He speculated that the most logical use for some of the $98 billion was to lock in exclusive content deals -- or even negotiate non-exclusive rights -- in preparation for launching a smart television set in 2012.

"I see the possibility of them buying something big only in the content area," said Gottheil.

The record sales of iPhones, iPads and Macs was not unexpected: Two weeks ago, White said that his "Apple Barometer," an index of Asian suppliers that provide components for Apple's products, hinted at record growth.

Last quarter was the first full earnings period during which Cook was CEO and the first earnings report since Jobs' death on Oct. 5, 2011 at the age of 56.

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

See more articles by Gregg Keizer.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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