There’s been a lot of chatter about the decline in unit sales for iPads in the most recent Apple Financials. The reality seems to be that the iPad is a “nice to have” device, not a “must have” device like the iPhone. To some, this implies it’s a disaster or a failure. I think the reality is different: It’s a solid and successful product and I expect it’ll be a steady performer. It just won’t be the hyper-success that the iPhone has been, and to some analysts, that’s the only thing that matters.
One reason I think the iPad numbers shrank is that Apple didn’t release the iPad Air 3, which seems to be in the rumors for March. That puts the iPad Air 2 at the end of its product cycle and people didn’t have any reason to upgrade and people who follow the rumors are as likely to wait as buy. I’m not surprised the iPad Pro didn’t turn it around — that’s clearly a niche product that’s a long-term play for Apple — and I’d expect once the refreshed iPad Air is released we’ll see the numbers rebound back to the slow and steady sales.
The reality is, the iPad doesn’t give users any strong reason to upgrade quickly. In December I upgraded mine, from an iPad Air 2 to an Ipad Mini, because I wanted the smaller and lighter unit over the Air. The iPad Mini is an interesting beast and I love mine, but it may also be a form factor with a limited future. This idea is well described in Peak iPad mini; for me, the smaller form fits my long term plans, since I don’t want the bigger iPhone 6Plus form in my pocket, and I’m shifting more of my moving-around activity to a Macintosh Air or Macbook 13″.
Having tried various ways to turn the iPad into a major productivity device for me — at least four keyboards, lots of apps, etc, etc etc — I’ve realized I prefer the Mac Laptop as a content creation device, and so I’m embracing that moving forward and going to stop trying to rewire myself. At the same time, as a content consumption device, the portability of the iPad as something I can carry around casually is perfect. That makes the iPad Mini a perfect carry device for me as something smaller and lighter than the iPad Air. For some reason, my aging middle-aged eyes get less eyestrain from extended use of the mini as well, so go figure. The weight difference is small, but for me it’s significant.
But that said? there’s a good chance if the iPad Air 3 was out, I’d have opted for that instead. So I think ultimately, the analysis of Peak iPad Mini is right on.
I’m waiting a while to see what Apple might be doing with the starting-to-arrive Skylake CPU generation, and then I’m likely to get myself a 13″ mac to carry with me. What I don’t know yet is whether I’ll turn my existing MacBook pro into a permanent “desktop” or refresh it with a ‘real’ desktop device. It does what I need, but to be honest, I’m no longer interested in a 4+ pound device as my “carry around portable” device. Weight is increasingly a determining factor for what I want to carry around as I do things away from my main desk.
When I worked it out, Iphone 6 -> iPad Mini -> 13″ Macbook -> Desktop was the set of devices that best fit my needs and interest. But having said that, if I had to give up ONE of those devices, it’d the be iPad, because I could replace most of its functionality very nicely on that 13″ MacBook, but I wouldn’t want to try to with a 15″ MacBook pro or an iPhone 6.