Apple CEO wonders what those other guys' tablets are used for

Tim Cook takes shot at rivals' tablets based on Web browsing stats

Apple CEO Tim Cook on Tuesday let loose another salvo at rival tablets, audaciously dismissing them as devices that no one uses.

"In terms of how other people are doing, I don't know," said Cook when asked whether the iPad's 14% sales plunge stemmed from an industry-wide trend. "What I can tell you is the most recent data I have gotten, which actually just came out, I believe, this morning, is that the iPad Web share data shows that through the quarter we accelerated further and ... now iPad accounts for 84% of the Web traffic from tablets.

"[That's] absolutely incredible, and so if there are lots of other tablets selling, I don't know what they're being used for because that's a pretty basic function, web browsing," Cook added.

Cook was alluding to numbers published earlier Tuesday by Chitika, an online advertising network that mines ad impression data for trends in operating system and browser usage.

According to Chitika, iPads accounted for 84.3% of all tablet-based traffic to its ads in the U.S. and Canada between June 15 and June 21. The nearest competitors, Amazon's Kindle Fire and Samsung's Galaxy line, were credited with shares of just 5.7% and 4.2%, respectively.

"That was a pretty harsh assessment of tablet competition, but there again, considering how far ahead iOS is with dedicated apps, maybe not," said Gartner analyst Carolina Milanesi in a tweet, referring to Cook's knock against rival tablets.

Cook, imitating his predecessor, co-founder Steve Jobs, has become known for taking potshots at the competition.

In early 2012, after Amazon's then-new Kindle Fire had grabbed a considerable chunk of the tablet market in the last months of 2011, Cook dismissed what he called "single-feature" devices, a clear reference to the Fire, which at the time was foremost a souped-up e-reader.

"People want to do multiple things with their tablets," Cook said then. "We can continue to compete with anyone currently shipping tablets or who might in the future."

A few months later, Cook roasted the concept of tablets with keyboards, a reference to rumors that Microsoft's hardware partners would design hybrids for the upcoming Windows 8. Mid-year, Microsoft itself entered the category with its Surface tablets, which have been promoted as both tablet, and -- when equipped with an optional keyboard cover -- a credible notebook.

"Anything can be forced to converge," Cook said in April 2012. "But the problem is that products are about trade-offs, and you begin to make trade-offs to the point where what you have left at the end of the day doesn't please anyone. You can converge a toaster and a refrigerator, but those things are probably not going to be pleasing to the user."

But Cook may be on shaky ground relying on Chitika for data.

The dedicated Web analytics companies that regularly report on operating system and browser user and usage shares -- U.S.-based Net Applications and Ireland's StatCounter are the most widely cited -- do not publicly break out online shares by device.

The closest is Net Applications, which said that during June, iPad owners accounted for 34.3% of all mobile browsing. But the number was amongst other operating systems -- Android, Windows Phone and the like -- that were not segregated into discrete smartphone and tablet subcategories.

Elsewhere, Net Applications noted that the iPad accounted for 3.9% of the global user share, but again did not compare Apple's tablet to those sold by rivals.

More importantly, Web browsing is not an accurate measurement of tablet usage, since surfing doesn't account for time spent playing games, using other apps -- like Facebook, Kindle and Netflix -- or reading and replying to email.

According to Flurry, a mobile analytics firm, browsing occupies just 20% of the time users spend daily on their iOS or Android tablets and smartphones. Apps consume the other 80%.

On the browsing front, Flurry said that Apple's Safari -- the iOS default browser -- accounted for 60% of the time spent on the Web. The remainder was split between the Android browser, Opera Software's Opera Mini and others.

Cook would have been on firmer ground using other Flurry data from early June that showed Android owners spend less time, on average, in apps than do people with iOS hardware, even though Google's operating system powers more mobile devices than does Apple's.

After all, Apple has not stopped touting its app ecosystem as the best in the business. During the earnings call Tuesday, Apple CFO Peter Oppenheimer ticked off the statistics. "Our developers have now created more than 900,000 iOS apps, including 375,000 apps made for iPad," said Oppenheimer. "The popularity of these apps remains incredibly strong."

This article, Apple CEO wonders what those other guys' tablets are used for, was originally published at Computerworld.com.

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