That Apple’s once-hot-selling iPad has been on a downward sales trajectory is common knowledge. Quarter after quarter, year over year, iPad sales have slowly eroded. Yes, iPad remains a big and important business segment for Apple, but something has caused the sales drop and I think I know what it is.
The iPad has fallen victim to a perfect storm of what I term need fatigue.
Apple’s Steve Jobs, when he introduced the iPad back in 2010, said the device heralded the post-PC era, and it needed to fit comfortably between the iPhone and the Mac. For a few years it seemed as if the iPad was the 21st century version of something Jobs described back in 1983.
What we want to do is we want to put an incredibly great computer in a book that you can carry around with you and learn how to use in 20 minutes … and we really want to do it with a radio link in it so you don’t have to hook up to anything and you’re in communication with all of these larger databases and other computers.
Sounds like an iPad, right?
Apple has sold over 300-million iPads to date, so despite falling sales, the device remains a huge part of Apple’s non-iPhone business, and the standard of the tablet industry. But sales are going down. What happened?
Apple’s customers suffer from a fatigue of sorts; too many Apple products. Mac, iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, Watch, iPod, iTunes; the list goes on ad nauseam. Something has to give, and between the heavy duty power you get from a Mac, and the requirement of a computer that fits in the pocket and doubles up as a phone– the iPhone– it’s the iPad’s sales that suffer.
Nearly anything an iPad can do can be done with an iPhone or a Mac, so the use case becomes more of a convenient want than an absolute need.
While the writing was on the wall before Apple jumped to gargantuan screen sizes for iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, the sales drop accelerated when customers had yet another large screen device to use, while the iPad’s product life cycle extended. On average, it’s likely that iPhone users upgrade their phones every couple of years. Not so for the Mac, and, increasingly, not so for the iPad owner.
It’s a case of need fatigue. We just don’t need to upgrade the iPad as frequently as an iPhone, and despite advances in screen resolution and CPU speed and GPU capability, the iPad cannot yet compete with the Mac for heavy duty computing requirements, yet fully loaded with RAM, storage, and keyboard, weighs almost as much and costs almost as much as a new MacBook.
For most of my readers, a Mac is a computing device necessity. Ditto for the iPhone. iPad? Not so much. Need fatigue has set in and the products life cycle and upgrade cycle has yet to settle into a predictable sales routine.