Apple’s fiscal Q4 figures, released Monday, showed iPad sales fell for the third consecutive quarter.
In a conference call with analysts, Apple boss Tim Cook predictably didn’t show any signs of concern over the troubling trend, describing it as a “speed bump” and not in any way “a huge issue.”
While it may have been easy for him to put the figures down to saturation in its main markets, Cook dismissed the idea.
“We don’t think the market is saturated, and I do look deeply into the numbers,” he said during the call.
The CEO added, “We looked at the country that sold the lowest percent of iPads to people who had never owned one before, and it was 50 percent. And the number goes up to 70 in some of the other countries.”
In an effort to ease investors’ concerns, Cook highlighted the fact that the drop represented only a 4 percent fall on a year earlier, with the company still shipping a not-to-be-scoffed-at 12.3 million slates during the three-month period from July to September.
Warming to his theme, Cook also pointed out that Apple has sold 237 million of its tablets in four years – twice the number of iPhones the company sold during its first four years of availability.
However, acknowledging that the sales figures for the iPad were going the wrong way, he added, “That said, we want to grow. We don’t like negative numbers on these things.”
It’s of course possible that in the most recent quarter a portion of consumers held off buying a new iPad in favor of waiting for the upgraded models, announced last week.
Further complicating matters is the arrival of the iPhone 6 Plus, Apple’s new handset with a screen so large (5.3 inches) that it could cannibalize sales of the iPad to some extent.
Cook said that as far as he’s concerned the tablet market is still very much in its infancy and as a result it’s hard to know how consumers decide whether or not to upgrade to updated slates.
“People hold on to their iPads longer than they do a phone,” he said. “We’ve only been in this business for four years; we don’t really know what the upgrade cycle will be for people.”
Whatever the reason for the so-called “speed bump,” Apple investors will be keen to see a significant boost in iPad sales in the run up to Christmas now that the iPad Air 2, together with an updated iPad Mini, are available to order.