The One Fly in the Apple-Earnings Ointment: iPad Sales

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For the most part Apple's just-released earnings numbers bested expectations, but iPad sales disappointed.

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Reuters]

Apple beat analysts' earnings estimates in its second-quarter report, sending its share price up in after-hours trading. The company sold 35 million iPhones, among other eye-popping stats. 

It's pretty tough to quibble with numbers like $39.5 billion in revenue and a 93 percent year-over-year profit increase. But hey, this is tech blogging, right?

So, let's call attention to the one key area where Apple didn't beat estimates: iPad sales. Analysts were estimating about 13 million units sold, although the range seemed to go from about 9 million to about 15 million units. Turns out that apple sold 11.9 million iPads in the last quarter.

That's a ton of tablets and it's a massive year-over-year increase, but we've been talking about iPads as if they were *the* future of computing. Yet in a quarter with a new iPad launch, Apple managed to sell 12 million units worldwide. I don't want to overpredict based on one number, but I've had a nagging sense from my own spotty iPad usage that the devices may remain a luxury. They don't quite replace your computer and they're not as mobile as your phone. What if the incredibly enthusiastic, urban, travel-all-the-time iPad early adopters actually have very different needs from the broader mobile computing market? What if beyond the perfect world travelers, the price is just too high for what you get? What if the upgrade cycle is going to be much, much slower than for phones?

That's not going to kill Apple, but given that we're talking about a company that's worth more than Exxon Mobile and completely dependent on discretionary spending, it seems worth pointing out.


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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science website in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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