Apple is gearing up to launch iPad 2 in thirteen new countries as early as next week. Operations chief Timothy Cook, who is covering for Jobs, made that information official in a conference call with Wall Street analysts following the release of first quarter earnings:

We are shipping to an additional 13 countries next week, and we’re planning to add even more countries through the quarter.

The statement echoes Apple’s last iPad 2 press release which promised "additional countries in April" and "many more countries" around the world in the coming months. Cook also revealed Apple tried to settle issues with Samsung out of court before proceeding with a lawsuit.

The Japan crisis won’t materially affect Apple’s operations, he said, and stressed they intend to produce "a very large number of iPads" in the coming quarter.

Apple sold 4.69 million iPads during the first quarter, a significantly lower figure than the six to seven million units the Street’s been expecting. There’s an explanation for that, though…

This could be due to supply issues caused by the manufacturing ramp-up because clearly a lot of eager buyers just couldn’t get their hands on the device when it launched. Cook said iPad 1 channel inventory was reduced by 570,000 units during the quarter.

Referring to iPad 2 as "the mother of all backlogs", he revealed some 170,000 iPad 2 units were in the channel inventory at the end of the quarter and said sell-through was about five million iPads.

Finance chief Peter Oppenheimer told analysts:

We sold every iPad 2 that we could make during the quarter, and would have liked to end the quarter with more channel inventory.

Timothy Cook wouldn’t predict when supply and demand might come into balance, saying "I can only be confident on supply side". The online Apple store recently lowered iPad 2 shipping estimates in the US and around the world from 3-4 weeks to 1-2 weeks.