iPhone sales boom pushes Apple to first-quarter records

But weaker-than-expected Mac sales may hint at cannibalization caused by iPad, says analyst

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Even though the $399 iPad 2 was available for just two weeks at the end of the quarter, the overall iPad ASP dropped from $593 in the fourth quarter of 2011 to $558 in the March quarter, a 6% decline.

Oppenheimer dodged the analyst's a question. "We're just learning about be the elasticity of demand and the $399 price point [of the iPad 2]," he said, falling back on the we-don't-have-enough-information line that's almost pro forma for Apple executives.

Cook, however, was less hesitant to answer. He cited education's enthusiasm for the lower-priced iPad 2, and acknowledged that sales of the 2011 tablet had jumped in "several other countries," hinting at price sensitivity, at least in some markets.

Gottheil thought there was more to the iPad ASP drop than Apple let on.

"It's possible that the [lower ASP] is because of the educational market, but what we don't know is if it sold well because the supply of the new iPad was constrained," said Gottheil.

The new iPad is in short supply: Inventory actually fell by 300,000 units during the quarter and even in the U.S., the tablet is backordered. Later in the call, Cook said he couldn't predict when Apple would have enough iPads to go around.

But both Oppenheimer and Cook said what Apple has claimed when it's faced past shortages, "We are selling [iPads] as fast as we can make them," said Cook. He expressed confidence that the next quarter would be big for the iPad.

And Cook, as is his habit, wasn't shy about knocking rival tablets, this time those that try to combine the features of a keyboard-equipped notebook and a touch-enabled tablet.

"Anything can be forced to converge," Cook said in answering a question about an eventual blending of notebook and tablet form factors. "But the problem is that products are about trade-offs, and you begin to make trade-offs to the point where what you have left at the end of the day doesn't please anyone. You can converge a toaster and a refrigerator, but those things are probably not going to be pleasing to the user."

Cook may have been talking about the device partners of rival Microsoft, some of whom are expected to come up with it's-a-notebook-it's-a-tablet hybrids for Windows 8, the operating system most experts predict will launch this fall, or even for the ARM-only edition, Windows RT.

"We're not going to that party," Cook said. "Others might. Others might from a defensive point of view. But we're going to play in both [computers and tablets]."

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