In the world of boring corporate earnings calls, Apple's investor Q&A sessions are about as exciting as it gets--the equivalent hardcore pornography for most tech geeks. Offering a rare peek inside the famously secretive company, Apple's earnings are watched by every industry analyst and news outlet--and even live blogged in some instances, like a worldwide sporting event. With such attention paid to the spectacle, Apple has used the forum to go after competitors--Steve Jobs once passionately used his bully pulpit to aggressively knock Android--and it appears current CEO Tim Cook plans to use his megaphone in the same fashion.
Cook hopped on the call today to not only boast of Apple's record-high  $46 billion revenues and $13 billion profits, but to talk up the company's sales  of 15.4 million iPads and 37 million iPhones. In doing so, Cook touched on various Apple competitors in the tablet and smartphone market, from the Kindle Fire to Android to Windows Phone.
Speaking in response to an analyst's question about lower-priced tablet competitors, Cook indicated he wasn't really aware that there was any true direct competition with the iPad. "In terms of the competetive ecosystem, the iPad is in a class all by itself," he told listeners on the call. Disregarding devices such as the Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet as "limited-function tablets," he acknowledged that "they'll sell a fair number of units...but I don't think people who want an iPad will settle."
"Last year was supposed to be the year of the tablet," he added. "Most people will agree that it was the year of the iPad--for the second year in row."
One investor asked if low-cost alternatives such as the Kindle Fire were actually increasing sales of the iPad--that is, when customers play with the "limited-function tablets" they're more likely to want a higher-end device like the iPad, the analyst suggested. "After Amazon launched the Kindle Fire, in my view, there wasn't an obvious effect on the numbers," Cook answered. "I've heard the theory from some customers--that they looked at [the Kindle Fire] and decided to buy an iPad. Whether that happens on a larger basis, I don't know." Still, he added, the iPad is causing a huge amount of cannibalization for Windows PCs. "We love that trend," he beamed.
As for Android, Cook indirectly criticized Google for not providing "crisp" data and numbers so he could get a true sense of the market. But in the tablet market, he said, it's clear the iPad is winning customers in the enterprise, education, and consumer markets. "It's winning market by market by market," he said.
Cook even rejected the comparison of iOS versus Android as a two-horse race, arguing that with over 315 million iOS devices cumulatively sold, Apple is far ahead of any competition. "I think all of us inherently believe that the iPad is way ahead there--there's really no comparison," Cook boasted.
"I don't think this is a two-horse race," he continued. "There's a horse in Redmond that always sneaks up, and always runs. There are other players that we never count out. I don't think we pay attention to how many horses there are...we just try to be the lead one."
[Image: Flickr user Tinou ]