Apple Sold More iOS Devices in 2011 than Macs in 28 Years

Apple sold 156 million iOS devices in 2011, which is putting the company on pace to outsell its signature Mac. Still, Apple CEO Tim Cooks thinks the company can do even better.

Apple CEO Tim Cook offered new ways of considering the success of Apple products during a presentation at the Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference in San Francisco Feb. 14.

Since the April 2010 introduction of the iPad, Apple has sold 55 million of the tablets, Cook shared. Put in context, it took Apple three years to sell as many iPhones, five years to sell as many iPods and 22 years to sell as many Macs.

Asymconf's Horace Dediu, plotting these numbers, put things still a different way in a Feb. 16 blog post: "The iOS platform as a whole reached 316 million cumulative units at the end of last year," wrote Dediu. "The iOS platform overtook the OS X platform in under four years, and more iOS devices were sold in 2011 (156 million) than all the Macs ever sold (122 million).

Even more simply: In 2011, Apple sold more iOS devices than all the Macs it has sold in 28 years.

Still, Cook suggested Apple could do better. While Apple sold 37 million iPhones during its fiscal 2012 first quarter, said Cook, that means three out of four people in the world bought something else.

He explained, according to transcript from Fortune:

"Yes, 37 million is a big number. It was a decent quarter. It was 17 million more than we'd ever done before. And so we were pretty happy with that. But let me give you a different€”at least the way I look at the numbers, which is maybe a little differently than you do.As I see it, that 37 million for last quarter, represented 24 quarters of the smartphone market. So there's 3 out 4 people that bought something else. And it represented less than 9% of the handset market, so 9 out of 10 people are buying something else. The smartphone market last year was a half a billion units; in 2015, it's projected to be a billion units. The handset market is projected to go from 1.5 billion to 2 billion units. And so when you take it in the context of these numbers, the truth is that this is a jaw-dropping industry. It has enormous opportunity to it, and so up against those, the numbers don't seem so large anymore."

Cook went on to explain that what does seem large is opportunity, which Apple has quite a bit of in emerging markets€”in particular, Apple has been "very, very focused" on China.

"[In China] we've had incredible success with iPhone," said Cook. "Over the past few years, we've gone from a few hundred million dollars of revenue in greater China, to last year $13 billion. So we really have been focused on trying to understand the market there and then taking those learnings to other markets."

Apple's business in China has of course been the source of protests from consumer groups, which have asked Apple to insist on changes within the factories of its partner Foxconn, after The New York Times, and other outlets, reported extensively about the at-times-fatal conditions faced by workers in the factories.

Cook began his speech by addressing the matter, adding that he not only had experience in factories as an executive, but also worked in a paper mill in Alabama and an aluminum plant in Virginia.

The supply chain is complex, he continued, but Apple's position is simple. "We believe that every worker has the right to a fair and safe work environment, free of discrimination, where they can earn competitive wages and they can voice their concerns freely," said Cook. To do business with Apple, "Apple suppliers must live up to this."