Interesting perspective from Neil Cybart:
iPad sales have faced one major headwind in recent years. This item explains a significant portion of the sales decline. It’s not inferior software, weak storytelling, or even a longer upgrade cycle. Instead, the iPad’s problem has been the iPad mini.
People aren’t buying as many iPad mini devices these days. Excluding 7.9-inch iPad mini sales from overall iPad sales results in a completely different sales picture. As seen in Exhibit 3, iPad mini unit sales have declined 70% after peaking in 4Q13 and 1Q14. The product’s value proposition has been permanently reduced due to larger iPhones. Apple has clearly experienced Peak iPad Mini. It’s not that the iPad mini form factor is going away, but rather that it will play a smaller role going forward.
As Apple doesn’t break down iPad sales by model, Cybart is using data from Fiksu, a mobile advertising company. Their accuracy appears decent — their iOS version tracking stats show 80% of devices using iOS 10 and 15% using iOS 9 in the week of February 20; Apple’s own stats show 79% on iOS 10 and 16% on iOS 9.
Fiksu’s numbers show iPad sales that are still weaker than they were, say, four or five years ago, but without the massive apparent downfall with iPad Mini sales factored in. A fun — albeit pointless — thought experiment is to consider what iPad sales might have been like had the iPad Mini not been introduced.
I still think a big leap in software is necessary for the iPad line, but a reduced focus on the iPad Mini — and its limited display area — could yield far greater improvements for the bigger models.
See Also: Jean-Louis Gassée’s piece on what he sees as a turning point for the iPad, especially with the launch of the new low-cost and lower-specced 9.7-inch model.
Update: Michael Tsai:
…I think more than linear improvements would be needed for the iPad to become what Tim Cook thinks of it as.
So where is the software of consequence for iPad? And who, given App Store economic realities, can afford to write it?
I’d like Apple to aim for a higher watermark, but I’ll settle for incremental changes — provided that software comes to the iPad that makes it feel like it’s of a professional calibre. I don’t know which happens first, though: does the App Store need to change in some way, or does a piece of “pro” software need to launch first to really give the iPad a kick up the ass?