What a difference a price tag makes. The original iPad, circa 2010, started at $499 and was an immediate hit. Along came new versions, more power, more capability, more applications, and within a few years Apple had a certified hit on its hands.
Then the iPad’s bottom fell out, and sales dropped precipitously for three years. During that period Apple shored up the high end of the tablet market with PC-like capability in dual iPad Pro models. Still, iPad sales declined.
That was then and this is now.
Thanks to a $329 entry-level model, the iPad is back, sales are up, all of which points out that Apple’s strategy of covering both the premium end of the product spectrum and being competitive at the lower end is a good thing. You can spend almost $1,400 for an iPad Pro that functions much like a notebook PC, or as little as $329 for a bargain basement iPad.
With little more than a price tag and a new model at the entry level, Apple fixed the iPad’s most basic problem. It was too expensive.
Tablets are not the hot sellers they were a few years ago because the use case and value proposition hasn’t changed much, despite the so-called professional level features in both iPad Pro models. It’s still a tablet which is little more than a larger smartphone without the phone.
Even iPad Pro– both the 10.5-inch and 12.9-inch models– are not quite ready to supplant a Mac or a decent Windows 10-based touchscreen notebook tablet hybrid. macOS Sierra is an immensely powerful device, even at the entry level of $999 for a MacBook Air. Macs run macOS, Windows, and most flavors of Linux, plus the Mac has many applications which just don’t have anything comparable on an iPad.
Screen real estate still matters to a large segment of the personal computer user. It’s apparent that Apple believes the Mac is now a truck and iPhone and iPads are various models of cars. Think of the MacBook as a light pickup truck, while iPhone 7 Plus could easily weigh in as a sport luxury vehicle.
What has happened in recent years is what is called market migration. Smartphone customers like larger screens and that eats into iPad sales. Likewise, many of the functions that we once reserved for the Mac have been moved to iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. The Mac isn’t dead and isn’t likely to go away any time soon, but the handwriting on the wall is what fits into your hand.
Apple performs something of a miracle slow walk of features to ensure that each product line can compete at the low end while maintaining the high end of the product spectrum. So far, that strategy seems to be working better than ever as Apple attracts price conscious customers at the mid-range, while holding onto the premium profits at the high end.
The iPad’s return to growth– thanks to a $329 model– shows Apple is willing to adapt to market changes and make adjustments accordingly. We see the same thing with the upcoming iMac Pro, aimed at Mac power users, but competitively priced.