Tis the season to dis the iPad. What's going on exactly? How could a product that has been such a huge success, the leader of Apple's march to the "post-PC" era, suddenly seem like week-old turkey leftovers?
Over the past few years, the iPad has steadily expanded into domains traditionally dominated by laptops. The iPad is now the primary or only computing device for a significant segment of the mobile market. More and more, people on the go are leaving their laptops at home, taking only their iPads.
With increasingly sophisticated iOS apps, such as GarageBand and the Microsoft Office suite, iPads have also been shedding their reputation as "consumption-only" devices and staking a claim as a productivity tool. As touted in Apple's "What will your verse be" ads, iPads are finding their way into a wide variety of settings — from schools, to hospitals, to bands, to art studios, to sports training, to science labs, to cockpits, and to almost any imaginable outdoor activity. As you watched the ads, you had to acknowledge that iPads generally worked better in these settings than a MacBook would have.
The iPad mini has been an especially bright star. The original 2012 iPad mini took off strongly right out of the starting gate. It was well-timed to counter the growing popularity of smaller sized Android tablets. But it was the 2013 iPad mini with Retina display that really soared. Identical to the iPad Air except for its size, the majority of reviews touted the mini as the preferred choice. Advocates argued that the mini was more convenient to carry and easier to hold, outweighing the advantages of the Air's larger display. Plus the mini was cheaper.
iPads, especially the mini, were on a roll and were expected to continue growing in sales and market share.
Fast forward a year
How the landscape has changed!
According to a succession of reports, there has been an overall decline in tablet sales of all brands. Most notably for Apple, the iPad experienced its first year-over-year decline.
In perhaps a more ominous sign, IDC reported that Google's Chromebook has overtaken the iPad as the number one computer in the U.S. education market. This is especially troubling for Apple — because what students become familiar with in school often determines their purchasing preferences for the rest of their lives.
How did things sour so fast? There doesn't seem to be one single explanation.
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