What it is: iPad sales keep dropping every quarter until it hit a four year low.
When Apple introduced the iPad back in 2010, sales kept skyrocketing every quarter while PC sales started dropping. Now in the past few years, sales of iPads keep dropping every quarter. While no one knows the real reason, it’s most likely a combination of reasons.
First, tablets last a long time. Many people are still happily using the original iPad five years later with no need to upgrade to a newer version. Unlike smartphones that are on a two year cycle with most carriers, iPads are under no such artificial upgrade cycle.
Second, smartphone screens started getting bigger to the point where they’re like miniature tablets of their own. Since more people carry smartphone with them, a larger screen smartphone duplicates most of the functions of a tablet.
Third, notice that Macintosh sales keep steadily climbing every quarter? In the past quarter, Apple sold 5.7 million Macintosh computes, a new record, and the trend only seems to keep rising. Most of those Macintosh sales were macBook laptop models.
Now if you look at the MacBook line of laptops, you’ll see that they emphasize lightness and thinness, which is precisely the advantage of carrying a tablet instead of a traditional, bulky laptop. So it appears one major reason why tablet sales are slowing is that laptops are getting smaller and lighter to the point of being small, light, and thin enough to use instead of a tablet. Laptops also offer more powerful software such as Xcode for programming, Quark XPress for desktop publishing, and AutoCAD for designing. Not many people need these powerful programs, but the available software for OS X is still larger than the software library for iOS, which consists mostly of entertainment apps like games. If you want to be productive with little hassle of sharing files, a thin, light laptop like a MacBook is the better option than a tablet.
So it appears the tablet market is being cannibalized from two ends. First the larger smartphones. Second, the smaller, thinner, lighter laptops. To survive, tablets need to get more powerful so their smaller size can simpler user interface can make them more useful in tasks that require mobility but less interactivity such working as cash registers and credit card processors in restaurants, or as sketch pads for drawing up plays in sports.
Tablets still have their uses but they’re being squeezed between smartphones and laptops. Sales of iPads likely will never reach the high sales rates of the past, but they’ll likely stabilize at a decent level. In the meantime, people will likely upgrade their tablets every five or so years, their smartphones every two years, and their laptops every five or so years as well. The tablet market is a niche market. It fills that niche well, but it likely will never be a major growth area ever again.