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Why the iPad is anything but doomed

Ted Landau | Dec. 9, 2014
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?

In education, the dominant driver appears to be price — Chromebooks are much cheaper than even the cheapest iPad. Given the typical school budget, this will often be a deciding factor. Not a tablet, but not a full-featured laptop either, educators are finding the Internet-based Chromebook to be at least good enough. To counter this, Apple might do well to come out with an ultra-cheap education-only iPad.

But there's more to it than that. Across all markets, there's a growing sense that the "post-PC" tablet may have been oversold. Despite all the wonderful things you can do with an iPad, there are still many times when you want a keyboard and trackpad, a larger display, more storage options, an easily accessible file system, and all the other advantages of a true laptop, such as Apple's MacBooks. If you can afford both, great. But if you're forced to choose one or the other, laptops appear to be re-emerging as a popular alternative.

The current decline in tablet sales may also be attributed to an upgrade cycle that is longer than initially predicted. Rather than getting a new tablet every two years — as is common with phones and as many analysts mistakenly assumed would be the pattern for tablets — people are hanging on to their iPads for at least three or four years. This obviously depresses sales once the initial sales boom is over.

Ironically, the iPad mini is seen as the biggest victim of this negative trend. Why? Because, on top of all the aforementioned factors, there's the iPhone 6 Plus. Before the arrival of Apple's phablet, many otherwise happy iPad mini owners grumbled about having to carry around two devices when on the go — their iPad mini and their iPhone. Many of these same users now claim that the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus is sufficiently big that they can abandon their mini. Ergo, iPad mini sales go into a slump. At least that's the logic. I haven't seen any hard sales figures yet.

Some have gone so far as to predict that the iPad mini is (yes, that word again) doomed — they expect Apple to drop the smaller tablet from its lineup in another year or two. As a portent, they point to Apple's decision to not update the mini this year (except for the addition of touch ID) — in contrast to the significant update of the iPad Air 2.

Whoa! Let's not get carried away. I find such predictions to be premature to say the least.

First off, no matter what the future holds for iPad sales, I don't see Apple acting that rashly or hurriedly. After all, it took until 2014 before Apple dropped the iPod Classic. The iPod touch continues to be available, despite apparent languishing sales. I don't see the iPad mini disappearing at a faster rate. In fact, I don't see the mini disappearing at all. Although its share of the market may decline, it will remain in the mix of available iPad options and continue to do more than well enough to justify its existence.


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