Apple touts ‘record’ iPad launch sales, leaves out hard figures

by Phil Hornshaw

Conflicting reports on Apple’s launch of the new iPad have ranged from extremely positive, with the company needing to delay shipments to fill online orders within 24 hours of its announcement, to slightly less so, with some reporting that the iPad’s launch has been slower than those of the past.

But during a call today in which Apple CEO Tim Cook outlined a plan for Apple to buy back $10 billion in Apple shares and pay out dividends to investors, the company noted that it had had another “record” launch with its latest tablet – though Cook didn’t release any hard numbers.

According to a story from Apple Insider, Cook noted, “We’ve had a record weekend and we’re thrilled with it,” during the call. In total, Apple has sold 55 million iPads since the device was first released three years ago, and some expected the company to sell as many as 1 million units over the weekend. Another analyst suggested that iPad sales this year could break 65 million for 2012 alone, eclipsing the total of all other iPad sales combined.

The new iPad’s major draws are its Retina display, a high-resolution screen that fans have been asking for basically since the first iPad’s release, and 4G LTE connectivity for cellular users. The new iPad is the first Apple device to pack 4G technology, which bodes well for the future of the technology in Apple’s devices like the next iPhone, expected later this year.

Apple doesn’t usually shy away from releasing sales figures – most of the time, it has plenty of reason to brag – so Cook’s reluctance to give hard figures is somewhat interesting. However, that might be making a mountain out of a molehill, given that the new iPad has only been available for three days. Apple previously said demand for the device was “off the charts” following the blow-out of pre-orders it experienced in the last week.

Spreading the stockpile

Meanwhile, Apple detailed its plans for the huge cash stockpile it has accrued during the last few years, which has reached up and over $100 billion. Apple has set $45 billion aside and plans to buy back $10 billion in shares of the company during the course of three years, while using the rest to pay dividends directly to stockholders.

That sent Apple shares shooting up this morning, and has also drawn criticism against Apple for not using at least some of the money to engage in philanthropy, something the company moved away from after Steve Jobs returned to his post as CEO in 1997. It’s possible Apple still will do something more altruistic with some of the cash, given that it really does have a huge amount. There is also the possibility of acquiring other up-and-coming tech companies to further strengthen the iOS ecosystem, similar to what Apple did when it snagged Siri.

So it seems we’ll have to wait and see just how well the new iPad does, and whether Apple has any big plans for any other part of its cash stockpile. Even if iPad sales have been slower out of the gate at this launch than previous ones, with dividends to pay to stockholders and an app store that just passed 25 billion downloads, it seems the company still has plenty to celebrate.