When the iPad was unveiled just over seven years ago, I was a little underwhelmed. I still bought one the moment it arrived on the market but that was a professional need, not a personal desire. After all, it’s hard to write about the Apple ecosystem without experiencing it.
At the time, I thought the iPad was a solution looking for a problem. I though Jobs had unveiled a turkey. But I’m a convert. When I travel, I carry two iPads with me – a 12.9in iPad Pro with a Smart Keyboard and an iPad mini 2. The larger iPad has replaced the MacBook Pro I used to schlep around the world for work and the mini keeps me entertained with magazines, books, a few games (not those run-around, shoot ‘em up games, but strategy and brain teasers) and the odd movie.
A look back through the last few earnings reports from Apple reveals a troubling sales fall for the iPad. At first, this was blamed on people holding their iPads for more than two years – the time it seemed Apple was expecting people to replace their tablets. This was based on how people replaced their iPhones – every two years as their phone contract expired.
Even the release of new, faster models with better screens, and the iPad Pro with its sophisticated pen input failed to arrest the sales decline.
An article we posted last week by Jason Snell suggests what we are seeing is a more realistic market than when the first iPad was introduced. As you look at Snell’s analysis, what we see is a reasonably stable sales line, with only slight peaks and relatively shallow troughs, once you forget the initial sales hype.
During the last seven years, another significant event occurred that impacts the iPad’s sales. The arrival of Windows 10 heralded a new class of devices in the market. Although the Surface was poorly received initially, it is now an excellent device and complemented by a wide variety of different tablets.
In those terms, the iPad is holding its own in an environment that is extremely competitive.
I think it will be a few more years before I won’t need a Mac on my desk. While the iPad is great when I travel, I really miss a large screen and there are still a few apps and services I need that aren’t iPad-friendly. But that number is shrinking.
But when we look to the long-term future of computing, I think portability and flexibility will be key. The iPad has the potential to deliver on both those counts. Imagine an iPad that could dock to a desktop environment. Then you could have a single device that served you on the road, on the couch and in the office.
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