Apple shatters sales records, calls Android tablets 'bizarre'

Sells 16M iPhones, 7M iPads as revenues break $20B mark for the second quarter running

For the second quarter running, Apple said on Tuesday that it had set Mac, iPhone and iPad sales records.

CEO Steve Jobs, who joined the earnings announcements last October, did not participate today. Jobs, 55, announced yesterday that he was taking an immediate medical leave "so I can focus on my health."

As he usually does, Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook, who will run Apple in Jobs' absence and is the frontrunner for the CEO spot if Jobs does not return, was on the call with Wall Street analysts.

Apple posted record revenues of $26.7 billion for the quarter -- the second quarter in a row that the Apple broke the $20 billion mark -- which represents an increase of 71% over the same period last year and a 31% higher result than 2010's third quarter. Profits were $6 billion, another quarterly record.

"We're running out of superlatives," Ezra Gottheil, an analyst at Technology Business Research, said of Apple's numbers.

"Pretty solid, very solid, and across the board," added Brian Marshall, an analyst at Gleacher & Co. "The entire [business] model continues to work."

In the quarter that closed Dec. 31, Apple sold 4.1 million Macs, breaking the previous quarter's then-record of 3.9 million machines. Mac unit sales were up 6% over 2010's third quarter, and 23% over the same quarter in 2009.

Apple has set Mac sales records in five of the last six quarters and has beaten the computer industry average growth rate in 19 consecutive quarters.

Apple also sold 16.2 million iPhones, up 86% over the same period last year. Alone, the iPhone arm of Apple brought in more than $10 billion in revenue.

As they did in October, Apple executives today said that there were still iPhone sales it had left on the table.

"We could have sold even more iPhones if we could have supplied them," said Peter Oppenheimer, Apple's chief financial officer.

With the short supplies in mind, one analyst asked how Apple would handle the introduction of the iPhone 4 on Verizon next month.

Rather than answering the question, Cook talked about iPhone sales growth -- sales were more than 2 billion units higher than in the third quarter -- then said, "We're going to do everything possible to get [the iPhone 4] into the hands of as many Verizon customers as possible."

Cook declined to project when Apple's iPhone supply would finally match the demand for the smartphone.

"Clearly, demand continues to outstrip supply, and I don't expect that to change anytime soon," said Marshall. "They just don't have enough manufacturing [capacity]."

Marshall wouldn't speculate on how the limited supply of iPhones will affect the launch on Verizon in the U.S., but Apple's implication was that there may not be enough to satisfy the initial demand by people wanting to ditch AT&T, or by current Verizon customers who have lusted for the iPhone but refused to switch carriers.

Gottheil said he thought Apple would meet demand for its CDMA iPhone on Verizon as long as the company's projections were accurate -- not something Apple has always managed well.

The iPad's fourth-quarter sales totaled 7.3 million, a jump of 75% from the prior period, and the second consecutive quarter that the tablet has outsold Apple's Mac line.

However, the unit-sale gap between the two widened in the last three months of 2010, with the Mac group selling just 56% as many systems as the iPad division did tablets. In comparison, in the third quarter -- the first when iPads outsold Mac -- Apple sold 97% as many Macs as iPads.

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