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LOS ANGELES, Oct 28 (Reuters) – Technology distributor Ingram Micro Inc (NYSE:IM) is seeing increasing interest in Apple Inc’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPad tablet as a business tool, opening up a larger potential market for the device.

Greg Spierkel, chief executive of Ingram Micro, said Apple has preferred to sell the iPad to retailers but that the company is increasingly letting his firm sell it to businesses.

"What it’s telling us is that there’s a (business to business) opportunity starting to develop for these devices, which is not necessarily where they were targeted initially," Spierkel told Reuters in an interview.

One significant use of tablets by businesses is by sales representatives in the field, he said.

Apple reported this month that it sold 4.19 million iPads in the quarter just ended, which was lower than expected due to supply and production bottlenecks.

Spierkel said that in the business environment, Ingram Micro customers are continuing to refresh personal computers and related systems, leading to double digit growth there.

Ingram Micro also reported higher sales and profits that only slightly beat expectations, leaving its shares largely flat in extended trading.

Ingram Micro, the world’s largest technology distributor, reported a third-quarter net profit of $65 million, or 41 cents per share, up from $42.3 million, or 25 cents a share, in the year-ago period. Sales rose 14 percent to $8.45 billion.

Excluding some items, it earned 44 cents per share. Analysts on average were expecting 43 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Ingram Micro shares were down about 1 percent in extended trading, after closing at $17.85 on the New York Stock Exchange. (Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Steve Orlofsky