Apple smashes Mac, iPhone sales records again

Execs duck questions about Wednesday's rumored tablet event during conference call

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Because of a change in accounting that the company instituted in mid-2009, last quarter was the second running where the iPhone contributed more revenue to Apple's bottom line than either its Mac or iPod business. Last quarter, the iPhone accounted for 35.6% of the $15.7 billion that Apple raked in revenues. The Mac line pitched in 28.4%, while the iPod and iTunes contributed 27.8%.

Analysts today also continued to question Apple about the company's exclusive partnership in the U.S. with AT&T, which has been hammered by users for poor performance. "Can you remind us of the virtues of having a single carrier in the United States?" one analyst asked.

Apple's answer was similar to those it's given in the past, but it added a small piece of new information. "AT&T is a great partner," Cook said. "In most locations, most iPhone users are having a great experience." In locations where AT&T has acknowledged problems -- New York City, for instance -- the carrier has "a very detailed plan," he said. "We have personally reviewed those plans, and we have a very high confidence that they will fix the [problems]."

Tight-lipped about the tablet

Not surprisingly, both Oppenheimer and Cook dodged every question thrown at them about the Wednesday morning event that most expect will involve the long-rumored tablet.

"I think you're alluding to our event on Wednesday," Oppenheimer said when one analyst tried to get an answer about whether Apple's financial guidance for the next quarter included any unannounced products. "We don't have anything to share today, so stay tuned," Oppenheimer said.

Cook couldn't be drawn into a conversation about new products either, telling a different analyst later in the call, "I wouldn't want to take away your joy" of being surprised later this week, "so I'll delay that for Wednesday."

Even CEO Steve Jobs, who was not on the earnings call, got into the is-it-a-tablet act. "The new products we are planning to release this year are very strong, starting this week with a major new product that we're really excited about," he said in a statement released just before the call today.

However, Gottheil, who like others has taken to dubbing it the "iSlate" in lieu of an official moniker, said, "There's a lot more uncertainty for this device. Apple doesn't really have a track record [in tablets]. My biggest problem with it is that it's more of a 'might-have' than a 'got-to-have,' which is one reason why I think its success will be of more modest numbers."

Other analysts have argued that the tablet -- assuming Apple does unveil one Wednesday and ships the first units relatively quickly -- could deliver another $1 billion to $5 billion in revenues to Apple's coffers this year.

What Apple has going for it, said Gottheil, was its timing. "There's some recovery going on, not only in the international market, but also in the U.S.," he said, pointing to the 30% increase in Mac unit sales in the Americas, and a 34% increase in sales at Apple's retail stores, most of which are in the U.S.

Computerworld blogger Seth Weintraub plans to live-blog from Wednesday's Apple event, which is being held in San Francisco.

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

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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