Apple CEO Tim Cook Does Not See Tablets, Laptops Converging

Just as the iPhone cut into iPod sales, so the iPad and MacBook Air compete for users. Says Apple CEO Tim Cook: What matters more is the right experience for the user.

Apple's Tim Cook once joked that if the Mac group and the iPad group were different companies, and the former was trying to build a device that could compete against the latter, what it would build is the MacBook Air. In other words: The opportunity for Apple products to compete again each other could hardly be greater, but Apple couldn't care less.

Or, as Cook put it during the January 2011 earnings call: "Cannibalization is not something that we're spending one minute on here." Then, during Apple's more recent April 24 earnings call, the topic was broached again, and Cook, now CEO, offered a far deeper explanation.

When asked why he didn't believe that the Ultrabook and tablet markets€”which is to say the MacBook Air and the iPad€”would someday converge, offering users a sub-2-pound device with great battery life and the ability to behave like a tablet or a notebook, depending on the user's need, Cook conceded, "Anything can be forced to converged."

The difference between what's possible, however, and what's ideal€”or the perfect experience€”is arguably what keeps consumers enamored of Apple and its numbers skyrocketing.

"The problem is that products are about trade-offs, and you begin to make trade-offs to the point where what you have left at the end of the day doesn't please anyone. You can converge a toaster and a refrigerator, but those things are probably not going to be pleasing to the user," Cook explained, according a transcript by Seeking Alpha. He continued:

""Our view is that the tablet market is huge. And we've said that since day one. We didn't wait until we had a lot of results. We were using them here, and it was already clear to us that there was so much you could do and that the reasons that people would use them would be so broad. And that's precisely what we've seen. The iPad has taken off not only [among consumers] in a meaningful way but in education and in enterprise, and it's sort of everywhere you look now. And, the applications are so easy to make very meaningful for someone €¦ and there's such an abundance of those that, as the ecosystem gets better and better, and as we continue to double down on making great products, I think that the limit here is nowhere in sight."We've now€”through the last quarter, I should say, which is just 2 years after we shipped the initial iPad€”we've sold 67 million. To put that in some context, it took us 24 years to sell that many Macs and 5 years for that many iPods and over 3 years for that many iPhones. And we were extremely happy with the trajectory on all of those products. So I think iPad, it's a profound product. The breadth of it is incredible, and the appeal of it is universal. €¦ I could not be happier with it being in the market, and the level at which we're innovating in both the product and the ecosystem here is incredible.""

Another answer could be inferred in the iPod-iPhone relationship. Since the third quarter of 2010, iPhone sales have risen as iPod sales have dipped and bumped their way down. As Cook explained earlier this year at a Goldman Sachs event, however, each has had its own halo effect, which accomplished a different something positive. While the iPod led users in developed markets to the iPhone and Macs, the iPhone has gained Apple new fans in all corners of the world.

Indeed, given the numbers Apple detailed during the rest of the earnings call, the limit to what it can sell seems to be nowhere in sight.