Have Apple's iPads Peaked? - InformationWeek

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9/17/2014
01:04 PM
Michael Endler
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Have Apple's iPads Peaked?

Many reviewers consider Apple's new iPhones to be essential upgrades. Now the company needs new iPads that inspire the same excitement.

 Apple's Next Chapter: 10 Key Issues
Apple's Next Chapter: 10 Key Issues
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Late Apple CEO Steve Jobs famously said, "If you don't cannibalize yourself, someone else will." That sentiment effectively sums up the company's attitude toward its new iPhones. With larger screens, the new devices have already established a blistering, record-setting pace during pre-sales.

But these gains could be offset by lower iPad numbers. After all, the iPhone 6 Plus is basically an iPad Mini mini, as some online commentators have called it, and it's hard to imagine Apple's foray into phablets won't deflate demand for at least its smaller tablet.

It's also hard to say how troubling Apple execs find this scenario. In the short term, CEO Tim Cook is probably happy to trade iPad Mini sales for those of new iPhones. If carrier subsidies are removed from the equation, Apple's smartphones are actually more expensive than its tablets. This indicates that each time someone decides to buy an iPhone 6 or 6 Plus instead of an iPad Mini, Apple earns more money.

[Will another gadget make you a better person? See Apple Watch: A Cure For Smartphone Addiction.]

But here's the "problem," such as it is: iPhones already drive a disproportionately huge amount of the company's revenue, and the company's revamped product lineup only increases this dependency. That's not necessarily a problem as long as iPhones remain the most popular single brand of smartphones -- but no empire lasts forever. Apple's critics have speculated for the last year that the company's iPhone reliance could be a long-term vulnerability, reasoning that if a competing phone significantly leapfrogs the iPhone in quality, Apple could suffer the kind of quick downfall that it imposed on Nokia and BlackBerry.

These might be excessively alarmist concerns. Few large tech companies have been as consistently and stupidly underestimated as Apple. During the recession, the company defied odds with explosive growth -- but that didn't stop analysts from declaring every few days that Apple's momentum wasn't sustainable. Six years later, Apple's still the most valuable brand in the world, still produces the most popular and lucrative family of mobile products, and still exerts more cultural sway than any of its peers. The company also typically brings in more revenue than Google and Microsoft combined.

Will the iPhone 6 Plus eat into iPad Mini sales?
Will the iPhone 6 Plus eat into iPad Mini sales?

Then again, iPad sales have begun to cool off. The tablets are Apple's second-largest source of revenue, and it's not clear if or how quickly the Apple Watch will achieve comparable mainstream success. Apple's tablets burst out of the gate even faster than iPhones did, so after such rapid growth, this slowdown might have been inevitable -- but it also reinforces that Apple might be too reliant on a single product. Cook has dismissed slower iPad sales as a short-term trend and promised that Apple can still take its tablets in new and interesting directions. Perhaps that's true. But Apple faces tougher conditions than ever before.

For one thing, tablet owners haven't upgraded their devices as often as smartphone users do. Two-year carrier contracts that encourage new phone sales contribute to this dynamic, as does the fact that smartphones, because we always carry them, are simply more intimate and relied-upon than other consumer electronics. Apple's most popular iPhone is the relatively modern iPhone 5, for example, with the 5s not far behind, and the 6 and 6 Plus poised to be even bigger. But its most widely used tablet is the aging iPad 2.

PC sales are also modestly bouncing back, following several years of speculation that tablets had killed off demand for conventional computers. Tablets are here to stay, but so is mouse-and-keyboard productivity. Most of us can't afford to upgrade PCs and tablets every couple years, so while we snap up new smartphones as soon as we can, we let larger-screened devices grow longer in tooth.

Apple also faces increased pressure from its tablet competitors. Android's market share is frankly overrated, given how much of it derives

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Michael Endler joined InformationWeek as an associate editor in 2012. He previously worked in talent representation in the entertainment industry, as a freelance copywriter and photojournalist, and as a teacher. Michael earned a BA in English from Stanford University in 2005 ... View Full Bio
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Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
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9/30/2014 | 11:38:48 PM
Re: iPads caught in a trap
@techocrati,

Maybe. If they release the alleged 12.9-inch iPad, they'll have to know a bunch of people will want to use it with a keyboard. Will Apple leave all that business to third parties, as it does now? Could Apple's mind change now that Microsoft, with its new Continuum feature for Windows 10, might have finally found a non-awkward way to do 2-in-1s? Apple's got a bunch of patents for 2-in-1 designs, many of which pre-date the Surface by quite some time. They've been thinking about it, but who knows when or if they'll act.
Alison_Diana
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Alison_Diana,
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9/23/2014 | 5:19:17 PM
Re: iPads caught in a trap
Yes, when i go to conferences I increasingly see people with tablets but I much prefer typing on my heavier MacBook. And I actually prefer my Kindle for tablet-like tasks like reading or looking up a website. Despite owning an iPad and a Kindle, I use my Kindle Fire a lot more than the iPad, even though i have a keyboard for the iPad.
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
9/22/2014 | 3:59:47 PM
Re: iPads caught in a trap
@Chris,

I've seen smartphone covers that are supposed to limit the angle of view such that it's fine for the user but harder to see for onlookers. I haven't tried one, though. Not sure how satisfying this would be in practice for someone concerned about this. Anyone tried it?
ChrisMurphy
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ChrisMurphy,
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9/22/2014 | 3:27:19 PM
Re: iPads caught in a trap
I mentioned to a friend about getting the large screen iPhone, and she said "no, then everyone can see my business." Bigger not always better. Her triple pack is PC-iPhone-Kindle, with the Kindle just for reading.
ChrisMurphy
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ChrisMurphy,
User Rank: Author
9/18/2014 | 11:27:57 AM
Re: iPads caught in a trap
I'm not even sure about the detachable keyboard, @PedroGonzales, though I haven't used Surface and am open minded. My world depends on that workhorse laptop, so I want zero compromise on the laptop experience, esp the keyboard. TDB
ChrisMurphy
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ChrisMurphy,
User Rank: Author
9/18/2014 | 10:21:23 AM
Re: iPads caught in a trap
I have a Mini, and I use it pretty much every day. But it has always felt overpriced, from the moment I bought it, for what I'd use it for. It's a web browser and sometimes Pandora player, that's all. I thought I would use it for taking notes on the go, using Penultimate, since I had started doing that with iPad and found it too big. But I just never warmed to usign the iPad that way. I wouldn't replace the Mini. I think the perfect combo is a 6-inch phone and an instant-on lightweight laptop.
Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Author
9/18/2014 | 6:18:11 AM
Re: iPads caught in a trap
Shane,

"iPads do seem trapped -- can't go bigger, can't go smaller -- and users will feel that redundancy."

I don't think iPads are caught in any trap. In fact, I think the sequence in size: iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPad mini, and iPad Air is perfect and couldn't be better. If I were Apple, what I would do next is take the MacBook Air, which is a great device, and make it with a detachable keyboard.   

"Once I bought the Galaxy S5 my Nexus 7 tablet has spent a lot more time on the bench. I basically use it to read Kindle books and not much else."

How you use a device is one of the main reasons --if not the most important-- to consider when choosing a new one. You always have to ask yourself what your needs are. For someone who already uses an iPad Air, or any previous iPad for more than reading books or browse the Web the size of the iPad Air is just fine. When you add a good iPad keyboad (there are some really good out there) you can get a very nice MacBook Pro mini sort of thing. It's perfect if you do a lot of writing. 

I know someone who does a lot of writing on his iPad. Not long ago he said maybe the iPad mini would have been better, as it's smaller and he could still do his writing. Much also depends on the individual's preferences and needs. 

I have an iPad Air. The size is perfect. I do some writing on it and use the touchscreen keyboard, which works very well. I prefer tablets to phones, which means I am not the person who would upgrade her phone too often. However, I see the iPhone 6 Plus attractive because of the bigger screen. Which one would I choose between iPhone 6 Plus and iPad mini? I don't know yet. 

If I would have to choose between the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus I choose the iPhone 6 Plus, probably because of what I said above about me not being a phone addict. I spent almost two years without carrying or using a phone as an experiment. :) Great insight I got, not to mention the freedom of being unreachable when I wanted.

As for OS, I love Apple's OS X and iOS and wouldn't change them for anything else simply because Apple has the best OSs. :) So, as Michael was saying, the iOS 8 is going to be important when people decide what tablet or phone to buy next. It's a combination of hardware and software what makes a device what it is, I believe.

-Susan 

 
Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
9/17/2014 | 6:51:58 PM
Re: iPads caught in a trap
Sooner or later Apple will try to make its version of Microsoft Surface using an iPad.
Shane M. O'Neill
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Shane M. O'Neill,
User Rank: Author
9/17/2014 | 2:38:11 PM
iPads caught in a trap
iPads do seem trapped -- can't go bigger, can't go smaller -- and users will feel that redundancy. I don't see how someone with an iPad Mini will keep using it (as frequenltly or at all) once they buy an iPhone 6 plus, or even an iPhone 6. I've seen this played out in my own mobile life -- even though I'm an Android user. Once I bought the Galaxy S5 my Nexus 7 tablet has spent a lot more time on the bench. I basically use it to read Kindle books and not much else.
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