Tim Cook: “There Will Come A Day When The Tablet Market Is Larger Than The PC Market”

One of the big questions hanging over Apple this quarter was whether or not iPad sales would continue its rapid growth. Last quarter Amazon introduced the Kindle Fire at $200 (well below the iPAd’s entry-level $500 price) and there was concern that even Apple diehard fans might delay their purchase of a tablet until the iPad 3 comes out—rumored for later this year. But iPad sales came in well above expectations at 15.4 million units. It is now a $9.1 billion business. There have been a total of 55 million iPads sold since launch in 2010.

iPad sales continue to surprise even CEO Tim Cook. During the conference call today, Cook predicted: “I think there will come a day that the tablet market is larger than the PC market.”

His repeated an earlier statement that the iPad is cannibalizing Mac sales, but it is cannibalizing Windows PC sales much more.

Cook also addressed the competition without mentioning the Kindle Fire’s name: “I think people really want to do multiple things with their tablets; as a result, we don’t really see these limited function tablets, these e-readers, as being in the same category. I don’t think people who want an iPad will settle for a limited function.”

The iPad’s strength, he argues, is that it is a general-purpose device, not a limited to just a few media-consuming functions. There are “over 170,000” iPad apps, orders of magnitude more than another tablet. “It’s not just a product,”s ays Cook, “it is a strategy for the next decade.”