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iPocalypse now?: iPad sales "collapse" and the Web freaks

John Cox | March 7, 2013
Based on one market researcher's estimate of a one-month fall in 9.7-inch tablet display shipments, a range of tech news sites and bloggers are announcing, if not trumpeting, the apocalyptic "collapse" of Apple's iPad sales.

"One is that Apple is selling far fewer, or planning to sell far fewer, and so buying fewer displays," he writes. But if Apple is "selling far fewer" iPads, then sales have "collapsed" and this actually is a "shocking and catastrophic event" for Apple.

"Another is that Apple is switching product mix and, perhaps, completely updating the iPad product line ... and therefore ordering different sizes of tablet displays, which might just be coincident with some popular Android tablet sizes and which, therefore, would look very much like Android tablets in the DisplaySearch numbers."

This hypothesis at least has the merit of addressing some of the complexity inherent in a modern supply chain for a product like a tablet computer. But essentially, Koetsier is saying that Apple might abandon the presumably failed 9.7-inch display in favor of screens that are 0.3 or 0.4 inches bigger, such as a10-inch screen (used by Google Nexus 10) or a 10.1-inch screen (used by Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 and the Asus Transform Pad Infinity). Or possibly he means a new full-size iPad that would be smaller, with an 8.9-inch screen (used by the Galaxy Tab 8.9 and the Amazon Kindle Fire HD).

There is no evidence of such a change. Apple can continue to refresh the iPad with improvements to the display technology, graphics, the processor, iOS improvements and changes, iCloud innovations and the like, without ever having to change the screen's size, a change which create a wealth of problems for displaying, and developing, iPad apps.

People buy the iPad or iPad mini to do one or more jobs, and those jobs are associated with either a larger or smaller screen. Sometimes those jobs include a smaller or larger screen.

One example of these buyer dynamics can be found at The Ottawa Hospital in Ontario. The hospital was a very early adopter of iPads, and now has about 3,000 of the 9.7-inch tablets. The purchases have slowed because the target "market" of physicians, residents, and some others has been largely covered, says Dale Potter, the hospital's senior vice president, strategy and transformation.

The hospital is currently piloting between 200 and 300 iPad minis, mainly with nurses and other staff such as physiotherapist. "The iPad 9.7 group are not interested [in the mini] as they want the larger screen," Potter says. "But nursing and allied health [professionals] like the [smaller] form factor, in which case we would look to ramp up something like 2,000 of the minis this coming year.

Until the iPad mini's release, the hospital was looking at equipping the nurses with the iPhone.

As lawyers would say, is it possible that iPad sales could collapse? The answer is yes. But not on the "evidence" so far put forward.


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