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Once again, Apple is reporting another quarter where iPad sales have fallen year-over-year and missed analyst expectations.

But Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, doesn’t seem too concerned.

Apple sold 13.2 million iPads in the third quarter, down 9 percent from a year ago and a ways off from the 14 million to 15 million analysts were expecting.

During Apple’s earnings call today, Cook noted that “iPad sales were gated in part by a reduction in channel inventory,” and he also pointed to “market softeners” in international markets that affected sales. Last quarter, Cook, along with Apple controller Luca Maestri, also blamed inventory changes on lower-than-expected iPad sales.

Cook said that it’s more important to him that customers are actually enjoying and using their iPads. A recent ChangeWave survey, for example, saw 98 percent of customers satisfied by the iPad Air and a solid 100 percent satisfied by the iPad Mini with Retina Display.

“We still feel the [tablet] category as a whole is in its early days and that there’s still significant innovation that can be brought to the iPad — and we plan on doing that,” Cook said during the call today in response to an analyst question probing for more detail on iPad sales.

Apple has sold more than 225 million iPads so far, Cook said, and more than 50 percent of iPads sold end up going to first-time customers.

“The market is bifurcated on iPads,” he added, pointed to 51 percent of iPad growth in China over the last quarter as well as 64 percent growth in the Middle East.

Apple isn’t entirely resigned to falling iPad sales, though. Cook mentioned that tablet market penetration is still fairly low for businesses, which means that’s a big opportunity for future sales. Not surprisingly, he noted that was one of the reasons Apple ended up partnering with IBM to bring iOS devices to businesses.


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