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What iPad Pro teaches vendors about product development

Rob Enderle | Nov. 16, 2015
Five years after the iPad sparked a revolution, the tablet market seems to be in free fall and PCs are making a comeback. In an attempt to revitalize the tablet market Apple just released the iPad Pro. Time will tell if this will work, in the meantime columnist Rob Enderle shares some lessons he says we can learn from the battle of tablets vs. PCs.

ipad pro icon space
Credit: Susie Ochs

Back in 2010 Apple again did what they were by that time famous for doing. They brought to market a product revolution with the iPad and put all of the PC venders on notice that their business was soon to be gobbled up by this new platform.

Five years later the tablet market, and especially the iPad is in free fall and PCs are, at least relatively, doing far better. Apple just brought out the iPad Pro to address this fall and it’s not a bad product, but by the end of next year we’ll know whether it is too little too late to stop the decline.  

I think there are some lessons here that we can learn from.

Sometimes you have to cannibalize

The even less acceptable term is sometimes you have to eat your children. When Apple brought out the iPad it was clear users wanted to replace their laptops with it. However, because Apple wanted people to buy both iPads and Macs they made it difficult to work with the iPad and made it more of an entertainment product. This gave the PC industry time to respond and part of the cause for the current decline in tablet sales is because PCs have improved to a point where the price, weight, design and battery life are more in line with tablets. Now it is far less likely to see someone living off of an iPad than it was four years ago. Apple didn’t fully learn this lesson, however, because the iPad Pro still doesn’t have a trackpad, which makes it just a bit more annoying to use than a laptop.  

The mistake was intentional, the goal to cripple one product so that it doesn’t take business from another line. The problem though is that this tactic typically opens the door for a competitor to fill the gap you’ve created, and instead of protecting a product line it tends to cause customers to move to vendors who better meet these new needs.

In short it is always better, if the customers want a change, even though it means swapping one of your products for another, to embrace it rather than try to force the customer to buy two products particularly given they’ll likely revolt and end up with none.  

Tim Cook has now put aside his MacBook and is carrying an iPad Pro, if he’d promoted that same use case five years ago iPads wouldn’t be in decline, they’d likely own much of the laptop market by now. I should note that Apple still seems to be trying to protect their Mac sales from the iPad by leaving off the touchpad and USB ports. I expect their enterprise sales partners are strongly suggesting they reverse that decision for version two.

 

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