If you listen to what analysts, industry observers and some reporters say, you might think that the iPad is fading into obscurity as sales decrease and people turn to cheaper tablets or phablets (big screen smartphones).
It's not true of course, Apple shipped 13.276 million iPads during the quarter that ended on 30 June, that might be less than the 14.617 million iPads it shipped in the same quarter of 2013, but there is no need to write Apple's iPad off. Apple is still the world's leading vendor of tablets.
But analysts still got jittery when Apple announced its financial results for the quarter that finished in June in which iPhone and Mac sales increased year-on-year. The reason for their skittish behaviour was that, while Mac sales are increasing (despite the fact that the PC market itself is shrinking) iPad sales appear to be decreasing year on year and failing to meet the expectations of analysts.
This decline seems to be contrary to what Steve Jobs said when he predicted that we were entering the post-PC era. Does this mean that Jobs was wrong? Not necessarily. It looks to me like Apple is in the enviable position of having a perfect compliment of products, that once owned entice the customer to want to buy more. The only difference is how often a consumer will renew those devices, but more on that later.
For example, I gave my dad an iPad for his 70th birthday last year. Within months he had bought his first Mac. My iPhone touting friends eventually replaced their PCs with Macs - I know this because I’m the one they now ask for tech support. Others have bought iPads because they already own an iPhone and are familiar with the iOS operating system.
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I’ve heard people joke that iPhones are like a gateway drug that gets people hooked and then they have to buy more. Expect this attraction to become even greater when iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite arrive later this year with their Continuity features that will bring the iPhone, iPad and Mac closer than ever.
But there is still the question of why iPad sales are declining year-on-year. There must be plenty of people out there who own an iPhone and don’t own an iPad, in fact, according to Cook, 50% of the iPads being sold are to first time buyers. These iPhone users may decide to buy an iPad, or they might prefer to upgrade their iPhone to the rumoured, bigger iPhone 6. If it’s a bigger screen they are after a phablet style iPhone may be all they need.
The popularity of phablets, big screen smartphones, is surely one reason why tablet sales aren’t as high as some had predicted.
Another reason why iPad sales didn’t meet expectations may be that those explanations were too high to start with. There was, it seems, and assumption that people would upgrade their iPad as regularly as they upgrade their iPhone, perhaps after two years.
Apparently this is not the case and many of the iPads in use today are more than three years old. It is feasible that when Apple updates the iPad Air and iPad mini later this year, adding, we predict, a Touch ID sensor and various other features, we will see existing Apple customers finally upgrading their iPad to a newer model.
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Another reason why tablet sales may be lower than anticipated is that where a smartphone tends to be a personal device, owned and used by just one person, iPads are often shared by a family. Should an new tablet be sought, perhaps for the kids to use, this is likely to be a low-cost non-Apple unit. Alternatively, at some point the current iPad may be given to the kids while mum and dad upgrade to the new iPad, when that launches.
It’s not only consumers that buy iPads. It is important to consider enterprise users, and, judging by Apple’s recent deal with IBM, business users are the ones that Apple has its eyes on at the moment.
The iPad is already popular in the big business, but you can expect to see even more demand from the enterprise for the iPad following the recently announced Apple and IBM partnership. This partnership should help Apple grow iPad penetration into the corporate market, through which Apple will continue to grow market share. Expect great things ahead for the iPad.
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