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Apple posts another record-breaking quarter; iPhone and iPad defy expectations

Apple continued its torrid financial performance, reporting yet another record quarterly profit Tuesday as consumers and companies snapped up its iPad and iPhones at a pace that far exceeded analysts’ expectations.

In just three months, the company earned $7.3 billion in profit on revenue of nearly $28.6 billion — the equivalent of logging $3,700 in sales every second. After its earnings report, the stock soared to nearly $400 in after-hours trading.

The consumer electronics giant now has a market value of about $362 billion and is closing the gap with Exxon Mobil, the world’s most valuable company, which is worth $415 billion.

Mobile hardware sales drove Apple’s blockbuster earnings. Sales of the iPhone defied expectations. Despite rumors of a new handset in the coming months, company still sold a record-breaking 20.3 million iPhones in the quarter, thanks in part to a jump in corporate use.

Apple’s chief financial officer, Pete Oppenheimer, said that 86 percent of Fortune 500 companies were exploring uses for the iPhone and iPad.

The company also sold 9.25 million iPads in its third quarter — every tablet it made.

“The sales for the iPad2 have been an absolute frenzy,” Tim Cook, Apple’s chief operating officer, said during an earnings call.

Those sales are bad news for competitors such as Research in Motion, which makes the BlackBerry, as well as PC makers, which have long dominated sales to corporations. Microsoft executives have acknowledged that tablets are eating into sales of laptops that run Windows.

Apple also saw demand for the iPad cut into sales of its Mac, though Cook said the company was particularly excited that “more customers chose to buy an iPad than a Windows PC.”

Mac sales still saw an increase of 14 percent, though sales of the iPod fell 20 percent from a year ago. Apple also confirmed that it will launch the next version of its operating system, OS X Lion, on Wednesday.

Executives were characteristically tight-lipped about unannounced products, though they did drop hints about a major product transition to come in the September quarter. A new version of the iPhone is expected in the coming weeks, along with the company’s release of the next version of its mobile platform, iOS 5, as well as its iCloud services.

Cook downplayed rumors that Apple will launch a connected TV, working off its success with the Apple TV set-top box. “We still call it a hobby here, and we do that because we don’t want anyone to conclude that it’s another leg of the stool,” he said.

He also addressed the patent suits that Apple has filed against competitors, claiming that their products infringe on the iPhone and iPad.

“We love competition and we think it’s great for us and for everyone but we want people to invent their own stuff, and we are going to make sure that we defend our portfolio,” he said.

Apple faces stiff competition in the smartphone and tablet market from devices running Google’s Android platform. But Cook brushed off the suggestion that Android is a concern, saying that the sales numbers for the iPhone, iPad and Apple App Stores speak for themselves.

“Android numbers are difficult to get our hands around,” he said. “Our numbers are straightforward, they’re transparent, they’re reported quarterly.”

International sales, particularly in Asia, were an integral part of this quarter’s figures. Cook said that sales in China were a key driver in that growth, and that he believes that the company is “just scratching the surface” in Asia.

The company will open a new Apple store in Hong Kong during the September quarter. Latin America and the Middle East were also strong growth markets, Cook said.

Looking ahead, company officials said they expect to see $25 billion in revenues and earnings of $5.50 per share in the next quarter. Apple has been conservative in such guidance, beating its own estimates handily each quarter.

Apple chief executive Steve Jobs, who has been on medical leave since January, did not participate in the call. In a statement, Jobs said the company is “firing on all cylinders” and hinted that there are new products to come this year.

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.



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