iPad sales are down. Again. Quarter-to-quarter, and year-over-year. What’s wrong? Steve Ranger thinks that consumers have fallen out of love with tablets in general. He also posits that businesses love tablets. He also uses recent numbers from research analysts at IDC, so the whole premise could be flawed (IDC guesses the numbers of devices sold or shipped; likely performing an extraction of numbers from premises best unmentioned).
One item that caught my eye probably tells the tale of the swoon in worldwide tablet sales. “Sluggish consumer demand.” Well, duh. The real question is, “Why is demand slowing?” Usage is not, especially among iPad owners.
Here’s the problem in a nutshell. Despite steady incremental improvements, people keep their tablets– and iPads– far longer than they keep their smartphones. I have two nephews who are still using the original iPads from 2010; hand-me-downs, but still in use. iPads last longer than expected because they’re well built, and perform different tasks than Macs or iPhones, both of which get used plenty, and for different purposes.
Remember this; iPad was Apple’s hottest and fastest selling product ever, even selling far more units in the first few years than the iPhone, the company’s flagship product. Over 300-million iPads have been sold in less than five years, but sales are dropping.
My view of this phenomenon is simple. The product is well made and has somewhat limited usage appeal. While it can handle some tasks from the Mac, and some from the iPhone, it’s not as powerful as the former, not as mobile or convenient as the latter. So, iPad gets used plenty, but doesn’t have an overwhelming need to be upgraded as frequently as iPhone, and usage doesn’t vary much from the original models in 2010 and 2011.
What about business?
IDC seems to think tablets are now loved by the enterprise, but could not come up with numbers to support the premise. Even Apple does not acknowledge how many iPads have been sold to corporate users, even after the enterprise deal with IBM.
There’s also the problem of definition. What defines a tablet? iPad? Flat and thin? Microsoft thinks Surface Pro 3 and Surface– both running full versions of Windows– are tablets that can replace a notebook, when, in reality, they are nothing more than touchscreen notebooks without a keyboard; bulky, heavy, and cumbersome to use as real tablets.
Are tablets and iPads, in general, falling out of favor as Macs and notebooks get thinner and lighter, and smartphone screens get bigger? Perhaps, but my perspective and user experience tells me the real issue is two-fold; usage is different, and the device life cycle is longer than expected.