Is Apple’s iPad Past its Prime?

While the enterprise is still happy with the iPad, recent sales results from Apple show the iconic tablet's growth is in steep decline. What does that mean for the world of tablets as a whole, anyway?

While the enterprise is still happy with the iPad, recent sales results from Apple show the iconic tablet’s growth is in steep decline. What does that mean for the world of tablets as a whole?

It seems weird to talk about a device like the iPad as being an also-ran, but sales numbers seem to suggest that may well be the case.

Last week, the tech giant announced that it sold 16.4 million iPads in its most recent quarter, which sounds great until you realize that’s far off the 19 million units analysts expected the company to sell and way off the 19.5 million units the company sold a year ago. (It also paled in comparison to the iPhone, which shipped 43.7 million units in the period, a big increase from the year-ago quarter.)

Now, that’s certainly not a sign the tablet is going away. For one thing, Apple CEO Tim Cook emphasized during an earnings call that the device has a massive foothold in the Fortune 500; 98 percent of companies on the list take advantage of tablets. But it looks like the market for the device is starting to taper off.

What could be behind this? A couple of takes on the matter:

Life cycle and competition: In an analysis piece on the drop in iPad sales, CNet‘s Shara Tibken offered two points. She noted that the device’s competition was improving, especially on the lower end, where Amazon’s Kindle Fire and a number of Android tablets undercut Apple’s offerings significantly price-wise. But perhaps more tellingly, she pointed out that the devices have a different lifespan from a smartphone, meaning upgrades don’t happen nearly as quickly. “People don’t have the two-year upgrade incentive that comes from wireless carriers, and Apple hasn’t made big enough changes to the iPad to compel even their most ardent fans to immediately buy the newest model,” she wrote.

Balancing two needs: ReadWrite‘s Dave Smith suggested that with added competition, Apple needs to either cut the iPad’s price or find ways to add innovation to the product—but not too much. “Ideally, Apple would drop its prices for the iPad to make them more accessible to more people,” he wrote. “But if Apple plans to keep selling the iPad at the upper end of the price continuum, it needs to avoid scaring away new customers by injecting some kind of ‘newness’ without adding expensive features just for the sake of change.”

Maybe it needs a keyboard? Forbes contributor Erika Murphy offers an intriguing solution to the decline. Murphy suggests that Apple find a way to combine its two main platforms, iOS and Mac OSX, into a single device that takes advantage of the strengths of each approach. Murphy cites a Gartner study that found that hybrid devices were the fastest-growing product category in 2013. While options for iPad keyboards exist, Apple has repeatedly denied that such a device might be coming down the pipeline, though rumors have persisted.

Of course, Apple could be transitioning its fortunes to something entirely new, as InfoWorld‘s Galen Gruman suggests.

What do you wish your iPad had that it currently doesn’t? Offer your taken in the comments.

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a senior editor for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. MORE

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