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iPad sales collapse? iPad mini leads to changes in buying behavior

John Cox | March 12, 2013
The iPad mini has changed the tablet market.

"Considering the fact that this was [the holiday-driven] Q4, we should have seen a spike in purchases (at least more than Q2), with iPad Mini being sales being additive (i.e., [we should have seen] ~27-29 million total shipments), but instead the full-size iPad's growth [rate] basically crashed (the market). ... Overall, the iPad Mini did expand the market, but because of this cannibalization effect, it wasn't as much as most analysts expected."

"That was a growth crash," Singh says. "The shipment collapse is forward looking, i.e. Q1, which seems likely based on Q4 [shipment] figures and NPD's [January OEM display shipment] data."

Not everyone agrees. Data collected by Yankee Group in successive 2012 consumer surveys show continued strong demand for 9-inch to 10-inch tablets, with a single-digit drop in late 2012, according to Carl Howe, vice president, research and data sciences, at Yankee Group, a Boston IT research and analysis firm.

The survey covers 16,000 consumers and is done in four "waves" during the year: February, April, August and November, allowing the research firm to compare periods.

"Demand for 9-10 inch tablet sizes dropped by about 7.5% to 62 percent in Wave 4, from 70 percent in Wave 3," Howe says. "Similarly, interest in 5-7 inch tablets grew from 18.5% to 25% [in the same period], a growth of almost 7 points. Some of that is normal statistical variation wave to wave, but some of it is because Apple legitimized the [smaller] form factor too."

"iPads are by far and away the best-selling tablets: 49 percent of all tablet owners own an iPad, and a similar number of consumers intend to buy one," Howe says. "Apple currently dominates tablets and we see no sign that consumer sentiment there is changing. Even if it were, there are millions of consumers making these decisions, and those numbers change slowly at best."

By its nature, anecdotal data from a handful of various enterprises with iPad deployments can neither refute nor confirm either of these analyses. Some enterprises are scaling back iPad purchases; others are expanding, or thinking about expanding, iPad mini purchases.

"My clients buy iPads in full size and mini, perhaps trending more toward the mini these days," says Benjamin Levy, principal with Solutions Consulting, a Los Angeles consulting practice specializing in deploying Apple products for business customers. "I'm not sure if that's pent-up demand for a smaller iPad or a trend for a smaller device."

"My guess is that the research and interpretation you're seeing is a result of Apple's unwillingness to break out sales figures between models of iPad," Levy continues. "However, saying that the [full-size] iPad market has collapsed seems ludicrously uninformed."


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