In search of the next world-conquering profit monster

April 24, 2014, 7:41 AM UTC

FORTUNE — Apple’s iPad can’t get no respect.

Quarter after quarter, the Cupertino-based company posts eye-popping sales figures, and yesterday’s results were no different: $45.6 billion in revenue, $10.2 billion in profits, and earnings per share that topped Wall Street’s estimates. Much of this comes courtesy of iPhone sales, which were up 17% and came in better than expected at a time when the narrative seemed to be turning in favor of rival Samsung.

But in between the back-slapping and champagne bottle sabering — at least, that’s how I like to imagine Apple celebrating most quarters, though its employees are far too focused to engage in such escapades — iPad sales were reported to be 16.4 million units, down 16% and lower than analysts’ expectations. On its face, this is a misleading number. Compared to a year ago, iPad sales seem to be slipping — the wrong direction, especially for this company. Compared to the 43.7 million iPhones sold, iPad looks like a portfolio laggard. And