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For the second quarter in a row, Apple posted iPad sales that were below Wall Street estimates. The company sold 13.2 million iPads in its fiscal third quarter, a nine percent decline from the same period a year ago and below analyst expectations. But Apple CEO Tim Cook said on today’s earnings call that he is still “bullish about the future of the tablet market.”

ipadoct13Much like last quarter, Cook offered a number of explanations for the decrease in iPad sales, including reductions in channel inventory and overall tablet sales declines in the U.S. and Western Europe. But he also said that the iPad is continuing to grow in developing markets. Sales grew 51 percent year-over-year in China, and they were up 64 percent in the Middle East.

The iPad isn’t seeing the same sort of meteoric growth that continues to define the iPhone’s performance, but Apple is well-positioned to see further expansion of its tablet line, said Cook. Half of all iPad buyers are purchasing their first tablet, which is a positive sign that the tablet market is expanding.

Cook also pointed towards a recent customer satisfaction survey from ChangeWave that showed 98 percent of respondents who owned iPad Airs were satisfied with their purchase, and 100 percent of those surveyed who own the iPad Mini with Retina display were satisfied.

Those numbers may not directly translate into new purchases for Apple, but they would also appear to show that the tablet market is more than a flash in the pan, even if its growth curve is slowing down.

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