What’s happening? Fatigue. More specifically, gadget fatigue. When Steve Jobs introduced the iPad back in 2010 he called the new era “the post-PC era.” Since then, traditional Windows-based PCs have seen sales drop, while Mac sales have hit record levels. Is that a sign of gadget fatigue? Yes.
Do you remember Steve Jobs initial keynote presentation when the iPad was introduced? The iPad was priced at $499. Less than an iPhone, less than a Mac.
iPad functionality is less than a Mac, less than an iPhone, too, but the larger screen real estate made it the darling of schools, businesses, weary road warriors, and PC users tired of dealing with their PC dinosaurs.
By far, the iPad was Apple’s most successful product for the first couple of years. Already nearly 250-million iPads have been sold.
But sales have stalled. Why?
Back to that gadget fatigue. Those of us who bought an iPad in the past four years may have upgraded to a newer, faster model, and handed down the original.
The iPad hasn’t been around long enough to have a purchase cycle similar to the Mac. I don’t buy a new Mac every year. In fact, I can get three to five years out of a Mac with ease.
The iPad has only been around for four years, and it basically functions the same as the original. Long battery life, lightweight, plenty of useful– but not desktop quality– applications.
The Upgrade Non-Cycle
Many people I know have Macs or PCs, an iPhone or an Android smartphone, and an iPad. The phones get upgraded every couple of years. The Macs are upgraded less frequently, but the cycle for iPad upgrades hasn’t been established.
How does an iPad Air differ from an iPad 2, already nearly four years old? Not much. iPad owners are not upgrading as quickly as iPhone users for a few very basic reasons that Apple hasn’t really addressed.
The Latest Is Not So Greatest
First, price. Not much has changed since 2010 other than competitors have lower prices. Second, functionality. An iPad 2 will be able to run iOS 8 when it arrives later in 2014, so there’s little incentive to buy a new iPad.
Third, Apple hasn’t added any new gee whiz factor functions. The iPhone 5s has Touch ID and a much better camera. Maybe we’ll see such compelling features in future iPads, but for now the incentive to upgrade to a new iPad just isn’t there.
Finally, the iPad is not a replacement for a Mac. The applications are usually less powerful, though less expensive. Add a keyboard to an iPad Air, max out the storage, and you’re within $100 of a more capable entry-level MacBook Air which weighs about the same.
As to tablet sales crashing, I don’t doubt it, though there are no hard numbers to reflect the trend. Only Apple releases actual iPad sales numbers, and though they’re down a bit, they’re not exactly in crash mode or free fall.