Whatever it is, Steve Jobs could have fixed it, right? After all, back in 2010, Jobs kinda sorta mostly but not quite said the iPad represented the beginning of the post-PC era. The technology gadget industry changes rapidly and one could argue that Apple’s iconic iPad hasn’t changed fast enough.
Despite three solid years of solid iPad sales withdrawal, Apple remains bullish on the iPad. We can argue the various reasons why iPad sales have dropped so dramatically– large screen smartphones, gadget fatigue, long iPad life cycle, lack of innovation to create a reason to upgrade– but one glaring reasons seems to have emerged.
Apple doesn’t know what to do with the iPad.
The whole use case or value proposition of an iPad remains much the same. It’s a content consumption device first, anything else, second. That means iPads get used today– for the tens of millions who buy them every year– much the same way they were used in 2010 when Steve Jobs launched the original iPad while sitting in a chair.
I look at my own iPad habits and confirm exactly what Steve Jobs affirmed back then. The iPad, for most of us, is a sit-down and view computer first, anything and everything else is secondary. How do I know? Apple flirted with a substantial upgrade in the iPad Pro a few years. The Smart Connector, Smart Keyboard, and built-in Pencil capability made iPad Pro a professional device of sorts.
Of sorts. I know many Mac and iPad users who love the iPad Pro line because it has features not found in the standard iPads, and I’m not talking Touch ID or a higher resolution camera or better screen. Graphic designers and artists appreciate what iPad Pro can do but they make up a small subset of the overall iPad user base, and not enough to tilt sales away from the downfall.
Ask yourself, what has changed from the original iPad in 2010, which debuted at $499 vs. the new iPad (same name, by the way) at $329? The screens are the same size. The new iPad is lighter. Touch ID is built in. The cameras are better. And the priced dropped.
Think about it. How quickly does technology change? Look at the specifications for a MacBook Air from 2010 vs. the MacBook Air that Apple sells today. There hasn’t been much changed despite Retina displays and the various OS X and macOS operating system upgrades. Yet, the Mac has sold at record levels the past few years (though more than 80-percent of those sales now are Mac notebooks, which might be another indicator of why iPad sales have faltered).
Apple just hasn’t done enough to make the iPad a more powerful device that competes with the Mac. Recent quarterly financial results tell us that Apple makes more profits selling fewer Macs than it does selling more iPads.
In this ongoing conundrum, Apple just doesn’t know what to do with the iPad.
Should it make a less expensive Mac to compete with Windows-based touchscreen hybrid notebook tablets? Should Apple make the iPad as powerful as a Mac but at a lower price? That hasn’t happened yet and the market has responded with what it wants. Macs do not outsell iPads but Apple makes more revenue and profits from the Mac.
Somehow, over the past few years, Apple’s inaction toward the iPad as a line of computers has resulted in actions favored by customers. Sales are down because the compelling reason to upgrade to a newer version isn’t there the same way it exists for iPhone customers. iPad has been on the market for about seven years. The first 3.5 years sales skyrocketed. The past three years, sales have dropped steadily. Again, reasons are many, but high on the list must be Apple’s inattention to improving the iPad beyond iterative changes, and Apple’s inability to make a compelling case that an iPad can truly replace a Windows PC or a Mac.
When it comes to the iPad, it seems as if CEO Tim Cook doesn’t quite have the same intestinal fortitude that Steve Jobs showed regularly.