Apple COO says laptop strategy is on track, even without netbook

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Apple’s chief operating officer Tim Cook stood by his previous assertion that Apple’s not in the market to make a netbook when pressed repeatedly by analysts during Tuesday’s conference call to discuss Apple’s third-quarter results. At the same time, he noted that Apple’s recent laptop price cuts have helped move inventory.

With everyone from HP to Asus manufacturing mini-notebook computers—known as netbooks—many industry pundits and analysts expect that it’s only a matter of time before Apple competes in this segment of the market. Cook doesn’t see it happening any time soon, however—a statement he’s made before during past quarterly analyst calls.

“Our goal is not to build the most computers, it’s to build the best,” Cook told an analyst with RBC Capital—a pithy comment he’s used before when asked about Apple selling netbooks or low-priced computers. “At this point, we don’t see the way to build a great product for this $399, $499, this kind of price point unit.”

Pressed by a Morgan Stanley analyst for more details on a possible Apple netbook or iPhone-based tablet computer, Cook said, “I never want to discount anything in the future, and never want to specifically discuss new products.”

But Cook said that customers who buy such hardware are often disappointed with their purchases, and that Apple is focused on products with the best value.

“We’re only going to play in things where we can deliver things that are very innovative that we’re proud of,” said Cook.

And Cook and Apple have reason to be happy with the company's laptop business. Apple sold 1.75 million notebooks during the quarter, up 13 percent from the 1.553 million it sold last year during the same quarter. The strong laptop sales were boosted in part by an overhaul of the company's laptop lineup at WWDC in June that included price drops.

Cook conceded that the average selling price (ASP) of Macs did fall somewhat in the quarter, but added that, “now you can buy a MacBook Pro for $800 less than last year,” and that customers are happy with that strategy and pricing.

Overall, consumer sales were strong, and Cook said that compared to projections from market research firms, Apple was “7 to 9 points ahead of the market,” and thrilled with those numbers.

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