Tablets are not a good business to be in these days. In fact, some of us who have perspectives on the technology gadget industry, think the iPad itself is dying and Apple is responsible for its impending death.
When the eulogies are written for iPad’s demise, one of the chief causes will be Apple itself. Sure, large screen smartphones mean the large screen tablet isn’t really a necessary device between Mac and iPhone, but after more than five years on the market look at Apple’s best iPad advancement. The price.
An Imperfect Storm
Worldwide, tablet sales, including the device that started it all and may be credited with ending it all, took a dive. The iPad itself has gone down as a business for more than three years. In the most recent quarter, Apple shipped the most tablets of all, topping Samsung, Amazon, and cheap Chinese brands, but still another drop in total quarterly shipments and market share.
The iPad is done, finished, fully baked, cooked, and burned to something of a high resolution crispiness. The device that once made the Mac look like something of an antique from the last century itself has fallen on hard times.
What happened? An imperfect storm, a stacked deck of events that someone at Apple should have seen coming. Large screen smartphones have negated much of the need that Apple co-founder Steve Jobs saw as the consumption devices parked headily between Mac and iPhone (back when iPhone screens were small).
To be fair, today’s iPad is the best of breed. The iPad Pro is almost a device that non-graphic designer or artistic professionals might want to use if they didn’t have a Mac around. For all the glitter and glamor of the Smart Connector, Smart Keyboard, and Pencil, not much has changed since the original iPad that Steve Jobs brought into the world in 2010. Improvements in usability have been iterative at best, and fully expected. Higher screen resolution, larger and smaller screen Pro and mini, respectively, and everyone loves a fingerprint sensors and a camera, but the compelling reason to own an iPad in place of a PC or a Mac just hasn’t seen the light of day.
Despite hundreds of thousands of iPad-only applications and customers who absolutely positively love the device because it’s built like a little tank that even pre-schoolers have trouble damaging but can use as well as adults, iPad sales are down, down, down, more down, and down again. 13 quarters of down is enough to call it whatever comes after a trend. Dying? What’s after dying? Death.
To be fair again, everyone who makes a tablet faces a similar hurdle. How to make the tablet such a compelling device that people snatch them up and use them. Instead, the iPad is the tablet that got snatched up and people still use them so there’s just no need to buy another one. And that’s what’s not happening.
Who is to blame?
Other than the confluence of events– large smartphones, lack of compelling software, high prices– Apple must share the blame because it has yet to do what it always did in the past. Be willing to cannibalize sales of another product. Could the iPad be a mini Mac notebook? Certainly. And it’s priced like one but does not have the same power and capability, despite an even larger software library than the Mac. To be fair to Apple’s tablet business, the iPad sells in big numbers and is nearly the equivalent of the Mac business, but it’s going down while the Mac is going up. That’s not a good trend. What’s going on?
The iPad could use a faster CPU and GPU, a better camera, more professional level applications, and a keyboard and case that didn’t look and feel as if it was created Chinese gypsies from 1956. The best thing Apple has done for the iPad since 2010 is drop the price to $329. Sorry, but that’s an indictment against Apple’s recent dearth of creativity and innovation.
‘Dear Apple, either let it die, or make it better.’