For Apple, the math is inescapable. Along with the Mac, Apple’s highly revered iPad is growing nowhere fast. Sales are basically flat for both product lines. Why?
For the Mac, traditional PC sales in general are falling, and the only category growing is cheap Chrome-based notebooks in the $250 to $500 range, far below the starting price of a MacBook Air at $899.
For the iPad, competitors number into the dozens if not a few hundred and anything with a screen and no keyboard is called a tablet. That accounts for Apple’s iPad losing marketshare, but in a supposedly rapidly growing new market, why have iPad sales suddenly gone flat?
CEO Tim Cook did something of a song-and-dance during Apple’s last quarterly financial conference call with Wall Street analysts. His gobbledygook answer was that sales were in line with the high end of Apple’s internal expectations. Since sales were slightly lower than expected, does that mean Apple expected slower and lower sales? If so, why?
Cook’s blah-blah-blah continued where he pointed out that iPad makes up the vast majority of tablets in business and education, Microsoft’s new Office for iPad should spur sales, and Apple has sold over 200-million iPads so far, twice as many as Apple sold iPhones in the first few years.
That’s all well and good but why have iPad sales flatlined? Why has initial enthusiasm over tablets dampened? Part of the reason might be that the tablet industry as we know it, with iPad as the standard bearer may have become mature far faster than the iPhone matured in the smartphone segment (for which growth in the premium segment has also slowed dramatically).
First, in my anecdotal research I have many friends with iPads that are three years old. They still run iOS 7.x, still run most of the newer apps, and if Apple ever built a durable, classy, timeless device that hit a home run on the first swing, it’s the iPad.
Second, the iPad still takes up that space between an iPhone and a MacBook Air; larger but less expensive than an iPhone, but smaller and less powerful than a MacBook. If the iPad continues to grow in capability (so does the iPhone, by the way), then maybe Mac sales start to drop once again as more utility is gained in the iPad. Then again, if the iPhone comes out with a couple of larger screens, say 4.7-inch and a 5.5-inch phablet, that would seem to dampen iPad sales, too. Who needs an iPad mini and an iPhone when a 5.5-inch iPhone max takes the place of both?
Still, none of this answers the question, ‘Why have iPad sales stalled?‘ My perspective tells me it’s a natural occurrence in the premium end of a mature market. What’s interesting is that among all the tablet manufacturers, only Apple discloses how many iPads are sold each quarter. Amazon, Google, Samsung, Microsoft, and everyone else are characteristically silent about sales numbers.
Worse, after four years competitors still haven’t upped the bar and done much to improve the tablet technology and capability other than drop the price. That makes iPad still the one to beat, but no other manufacturer is beating Apple or their own drums.