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Tuesday, July 20, 2010, 03:00 pm PT (06:00 pm ET)

Apple prefers halo effect over fears of iPad cannibalization of Macs

Asked about the potential for iPad sales to cannibalize Mac sales, Apple executives shrugged off the issue as insignificant, then pointed toward the potential of iPads to sell even more Macs and iPhones as part of an overall halo effect.

Apple was widely expected to sell more iPads than Macs this quarter as demand for the new tablet exploded beyond expectations. That resulted in talk of the iPad cannibalizing Mac sales and even of Apple's eventually replacing its desktop operating system with the stripped down iOS.

However, Apple surprised pundits by selling a new record number of Macs this quarter, reaching 3.47 million units. That's a 33% year over year quarterly increase, and kept its desktop platform slightly ahead of the 3.27 million iPads the company sold.

Apple's chief operations officer Tim Cook pointed out that while outsiders like to focus on the negative with talk about cannibalization, Apple prefers to think of iPad sales as an opportunity for spillover "halo" growth.

Cook noted the dramatic rise in Mac sales that accompanied the success of iPod over the past several years, and while saying, "I don't want to predict it," Cook commented on a parallel potential for new Mac sales due to "more customers we can introduce to Apple through iPhones, iPod, and iPad."

At the same time, the upside to having lower market share with the Mac among generic PCs, Cook pointed out, was that the iPad has great potential to cannibalize PCs. "There's a lot of PCs to cannibalize," Cook said.