Even Millennials Don’t Know What to Do with Tablets

This week marks the 7th anniversary of the iPad’s availability on the market. The Verge reminds us of their initial take on the product. There were two main stands iPad reviewers took back in 2010. Some industry watchers thought the iPad could become the next computing platform — at least for some people. Others believed the iPad would mainly be successful with users with extra disposable income as well as users who wanted a simpler computing experience and did not need much.

Seven years in and the debate remains the same: is the iPad the next computing platform or merely a superfluous device? Apple is certainly trying with the new ads to make us believe the former is true but consumers do not seem to be convinced yet.

I am focusing on the iPad because, although many tablets followed it, none ever came close to the volumes Apple has been able to sell. Even now when sales are in decline, iPad remains the best-selling tablet in the market.

Perception is a Great Hindering Factor

At Creative Strategies, we recently ran an extensive study looking at Millennials’ preference of both devices and apps when it comes to collaboration. It is interesting to look at their device preference for productivity because this is “The Touch Generation”. We focused on 18 to 24 year olds to gather their expectations as they enter the workforce or soon after joining it. This is the age group that experienced the early stages of touch on smartphones the same way as Gen Z is today experiencing many voice-first interactions. They are not only very comfortable with touch but get a lot done with their phone which would put them in an ideal position to understand what they could do with a tablet.

We asked our panel of over 1200 US millennials several questions around how they prefer to collaborate, what devices they use, what app and services they use and what communication medium is their preferred one. One of the question asked them to think about which device they would take on a business trip with them if they knew they had a project due at work. As you can see from the chart below, there was no question about the tablet as the device of preference. Only 12% of male and 16% of female millennials would take a tablet with them. The rest of the panel was pretty evenly split between taking a smartphone or a PC.

It is when you dig into the why they would pick that particular device we get some clarity on where tablets stand. Most millennials who picked a smartphone valued the communication side of the device. Being able to make calls and use messaging apps was the biggest selling point. There was also a consensus that, “anything needs doing can be done on a phone.” On the PC side, the main two drivers were screen size and range of apps. Millennials who would not leave without their PC really appreciated the larger screen real estate and believe there are certain productivity apps they would not be able to run on a phone. Communications mattered to these millennials too, but they thought that, between apps and VoIP calls, they could get the job done. Some were even prepared to go old school and use a landline if absolutely necessary. The bottom line for people choosing the PC was, if you want to do real work, there is no other option.

The smaller percentage of millennials who would take a tablet on their trip are Apple’s sweet spot. They are the ones that understand they can do what they can do on a phone, including communications, and get the larger screen. They referred to the tablet as a happy medium, the best of both worlds, and as a device that gets the job done. Interestingly, a few called out Microsoft Office as an app that makes using a tablet as a main device easy. These are users that believe in the ability of a tablet to be the next computing platform.

Overall, this set of results very much points out the perception that the iPad, the best in class tablet, had back in 2010 — it was only good enough for light productivity. It still rings true today to many consumers, even open minded millennials. What has also negatively affected tablet uptake has been the progress in processing power and screen size many smartphone models have undergone.

Are 2-in-1s a Tablet or a PC?

While analysts and marketers love putting labels on devices, consumers seem to be a bit more pragmatic. If it quacks like a duck and it walks like a duck, chances are it’s a duck!

We wanted to test whether millennials were interested in iPad Pro, Surface, or other Windows 2-in-1s as their primary laptop so we asked. Overall, only 18% of the panel was interested in a Windows 2-in-1 and only 9% was interested in an iPad Pro as a substitute for their laptop. Forty-nine percent came right out and said, “No way, I prefer a traditional laptop form factor”. Another 16% is not convinced touch is useful or needed – so Apple is not alone thinking that a touch screen is not a must-have in a laptop form factor.

Once again, when digging a little deeper and looking at the data by operating system the panelists are currently running on their computer, things get very interesting.

Current Windows 10 users are much more open to the idea of using a 2-in-1 as their main laptop than current Mac users. This highlights two main points: on the one hand, Microsoft and all the OEMs have succeeded in positioning 2-in-1s as PCs. On the other, Mac users still see their devices as superior to an iPad Pro or a 2-in-1. While the difference is less striking when it comes to the role of touch, current Mac users do have more doubts on how much it is needed in a laptop.

My hypothesis that 2-in-1s are seen more as a PC while iPad Pro is still seen more as a tablet is backed up by the data we get if we cross these two questions. When you ask, “Would you consider replacing your laptop with an iPad Pro?”, 22% would take a tablet on their business trip while only 16% of millennials interested in using a 2-in-1 as their main PC would pick a tablet for the trip. This corroborates my hypothesis that iPad Pro has yet to establish itself as a PC and Apple has more work to be done.

While the Windows ecosystem could convince consumers 2-in-1s were PCs mainly through advertising, they had a great advantage over Apple in the operating system that most consumers know as a PC operating system. This means Apple needs to do more than advertise, especially at an enterprise level which is exactly what they are doing with their collaboration with SAP in particular.

If we consider millennials’ attitude to communication in our survey, it is clear the way they communicate has changed quite significantly. Messaging, video calling, and voice through apps not phone-based have taken over. Empowering the work place with apps that take advantage of the iPad and create new workflows will have the same impact. While this might not affect the sales trajectory of the iPad any time soon, I do believe it will make a difference in enterprise for iOS. The big question is whether the iPhone or the iPad will be the main benefactor.

Published by

Carolina Milanesi

Carolina is a Principal Analyst at Creative Strategies, Inc, a market intelligence and strategy consulting firm based in Silicon Valley and recognized as one of the premier sources of quantitative and qualitative research and insights in tech. At Creative Strategies, Carolina focuses on consumer tech across the board. From hardware to services, she analyzes today to help predict and shape tomorrow. In her prior role as Chief of Research at Kantar Worldpanel ComTech, she drove thought leadership research by marrying her deep understanding of global market dynamics with the wealth of data coming from ComTech’s longitudinal studies on smartphones and tablets. Prior to her ComTech role, Carolina spent 14 years at Gartner, most recently as their Consumer Devices Research VP and Agenda Manager. In this role, she led the forecast and market share teams on smartphones, tablets, and PCs. She spent most of her time advising clients from VC firms, to technology providers, to traditional enterprise clients. Carolina is often quoted as an industry expert and commentator in publications such as The Financial Times, Bloomberg, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. She regularly appears on BBC, Bloomberg TV, Fox, NBC News and other networks. Her Twitter account was recently listed in the “101 accounts to follow to make Twitter more interesting” by Wired Italy.

66 thoughts on “Even Millennials Don’t Know What to Do with Tablets”

  1. I’m a bit doubtful about a few things, mostly about which way the causality goes:

    – “While the Windows ecosystem could convince consumers 2-in-1s were PCs mainly through advertising”. Well… reality helped: 2-in-1s *are* PCs, with the usual UI and apps and ports and large storage and peripherals support. The iPad misses all of that.

    – “current Mac users do have more doubts on how much [touch] is needed in a laptop”. Or is it the other way around, ie Touch in a Mac laptop actually *is* useless because Macs don’t handle it ? I mean Windows users have Touch (or can have it/ have seen it work) so they can grok the value of it (which is iffy, but real to some, I guess). “Do you want a touchscreen in your MacBook ? – No MacOS doesn’t handle it”.

    – “Mac users still see their devices as superior to an iPad Pro or a 2-in-1.”, reciprocally, Mac users still see an iPad as inferior to their laptop. If you add columns 1,2, 5, 6 in your table (all the “have/will consider a tablet/2-in1”), you get over 50% Windows users OK with replacement vs 25% Apple users. That’s an indication of Apple’s products and policy on the topic, not just perceptions.

    1. I do still think the door stopper is developers, especially legacy developers. I agree with your consumer perspective, I still don’t see many actual uses within those work oriented legacy applications for a 2 in 1.

      In my industry the 2 in 1s are being used primarily as PCs, very little touch except for scrolling. That’s pretty true for basic office apps or graphics, video, and CAD work. As a tablet, it is mostly removing the screen and sharing it around to see an image or video. No one I’ve seen is using the tablet version of typical productivity software.

      Tablets (but not 2 in 1s), however, are being heavily used as remote UIs for proprietary computer technology like lighting or sound consoles. Also, remote paperwork “clipboard” uses. I can store, notate, and use a whole script or score without ever fearing losing a page and keep up with updates. But applications are springing up for just that purpose. They aren’t springing up on 2 in 1s.

      So, imo, both the tablets sides of 2 in 1s and dedicated tablets are being hindered by lack of developer imagination and willingness to put in the resources to accommodate the form.


  2. A huge issue I have with this article, and frankly every article on the iPad that I can find, is that they only try to explain what is happening now.

    You mention that the public perception towards tablets has not changed since 2010. However, we have witnessed huge changes in sales during the years. The only logical conclusion that you can draw from this is that public perceptions have not determined iPad sales. Hence this survey, while informative, provides nothing to explain why iPad sales are not as high as they were in say 2013.

    I remember every analyst being bullish about iPad in 2013, just months before it became apparent that sales were flattening. If you only focus on the NOW, you will never see further than your nose. Since you can’t analyse the future, you’d better study the past.

    What I think is missing is a willingness to come up with a theory that holds true for more than half a decade. If an analyst comes up with something that explains both the initial sales spike in 2013 AND the decline ever since, then I’m more than eager to listen. Otherwise, all that’s being presented is an observation that may not be relevant at all.

    1. Yes and no. I think it’s fairly clear the the sales issue is due to very slow replacement, and penetration plateauing. I find it interesting to focus on the “why”, not just the “so what next”. Understanding the current state is key is envisioning what comes next.

      iPads failing to graduate to “Computer” in spite of Apple PR to that effect seems to be a main cause. And Windows doesn’t seem to have that problem, or to a much lesser extent. That from the more forward-thinking generation (we’re dinosaurs already ^^).

      I think that explains the iPad 2017: trying to jump-start the renewal cycle and encroach on Android’s price range (before a probable Android+ChromeOS merge making all Android tablets Chromebooks too, still 50% more expensive though, a very good Lenovo Yoga Tab 3 Plus is 260€ to iPad’s 410€).

      I’m curious how that qualified failure will manifest in the Pro line. Will Apple stick to its toaster-fridge guns or imitate Windows’s more successful (lots of caveats here: more successful in the context of a failed Metro ecosystem) oven-grill approach ? Mouse support and I/O ports are a litmus test, they’re easy to implement, and w/o side effects.

      1. My point is that if you just focus on the NOW, you won’t understand the “why”. If you understand the dynamics of the tablet market, you should be able to explain at least more than 5 years of sales. An observation that only covers the current year is unlikely to reveal the true “why”, although it might give you some ideas (many of which will not be hold true).

        Also, it’s not clear that becoming a PC replacement will help sales or the failure to become so is the reason why sales are faltering. The 2013 sales peak was probably unrelated to being a PC anyway.

        We all forget how amazingly successful the iPad was in the early years. It’s trivial to provide an explanation of what is succeeding or failing. It is much much harder to explain what was both a huge success and a disappointing failure.

        1. Agreed. But autopsies are a cogent way to prevent more deaths by understanding why/how someone died. The now isn’t sufficient, but it’s required.

          I’d even look at the past to try and understand the present. Netbooks (I know, old and tired analogy) quickly saturated their niche, then failed to provide reasons to update, then got mostly done in by tablets. Though no fault of their own really, everyone around me who got one was happy with it, used it as intended (*very* occasionally for basic stuff or “just in case”; my sister had a panic attack last year when she failed to locate hers before her holidays). One can wonder if tablets are following the same pattern: home niche well served already, no reason to upgrade, and now 2-in1s/convertbles barging in. I can’t help but think we’d be having a very different conversation if Windows/Metro had apps.

          1. Although I personally do not think that tablets are following the Netbook tragectory, I do agree that the statistics and surveys that are being published do not provide the insight that might distinguish them. That’s what annoys me.

            Surveys should be designed to really understand what is happening.

          2. netbooks were a very different story. With netbooks expectations were set that they were like a PC so there was no compromise in the experience with a huge price advantage. the reality was very different and users were heavily disappointed. iPad did what it said on the box and got the users it could get. Now the point is to explain what else it can do in order to get users in the market for a PC to consider an iPad not users in the market for a tablet. The longevity of the models also hurt replacement one hindering factor to growth.

          3. I couldn’t find any survey of netbook customer satisfaction, nor of customer disappointment.
            Around me people weren’t disappointed with them, they had low expectations to start with: web, mail, videos, and emergency Office, plus remote network admin before phones got keyboards and ssh+terminal. What else could you hope to do in 1GB on an Atom ? Oh, and camera backups. Mine is also a mobile server w/ a 1.5TB HD.
            And I’d argue the overenthusiastic ads exist on the iOS side too: how many bought an 8GB iPhone so their surly teen could make feature films on the family ? Or an iPad Pro because they thought it was a PC ? ;-p
            And I’d say the risk to tablets mirrors what happened to Netbooks: even now with Windows, you can do some of the dumb stuff (browsing mail, videos, not games nor social though) in Touch mode, and then you can switch to Computer mode for Real Work, which tablets still mostly can’t do despite ads to the contrary. (hint: it involves legacy apps, a mouse, and other peripherals)

          4. Autopsies will reveal a lot to people trained in medicine. However, people who don’t understand how the body works will only jump to wrong conclusions.

            I think the current state of understanding is more akin to the latter. Hence a more discovery oriented approach similar to how a scientist would prove a new theory, is better suited in my opinion.

        2. If I may interject…

          I find these “business models” akin to weather models. You can only reliably predict so far into the future. This is not a criticism, just highlighting the magnitude of a problem.

          Like weather models, economic models have a large random element stirring things up in non-intuitive ways. The behavior is often chaotic and small differences in initial conditions yield unregcognizingly different results when projected out. This even through weather obeys physics, and economics has random human behaviors to content with.

          So these are very “fuzzy models” indeed.

          1. True, but our understanding of why iPad sales faltered is magnitudes less than what we know of the weather (economics, I’m not so sure).

        3. “It is much much harder to explain what was both a huge success and a disappointing failure.”

          (Please refer to “exhibit 3” to quantify the following paragraphs)

          There’s no disappointing failure unless you subscribe to the wall street mindset that sees *any* decline in sales as doom. Once you understand the reasons for the initial huge success, you understand why that huge success was not the natural level of sales of the device, resulting in an inevitable decline to a more stable level.

          The Ipad brought the simplicity of IOS to a device whose screen didn’t feel cramped. It gave you the same screen size as a netbook in a much lighter package with far better battery life. When it came out in 2010-2011, for a specific set of use cases it was much, much better than *any* of the alternatives that existed at the time.

          That explains the initial excitement and surge in sales – the internet (and computing more generally) had become so essential to people’s lives they needed to be able to access it more and more often, but phones were too small and laptops/netbooks were too big and too complicated. The full size ipad took off like a rocket because it filled a need that no other device was filling.

          Once the initial demand for a mobile device with a large screen was filled, sales declined, then rebounded with the release of the Ipad Air (which brought the weight down from “a bit too heavy” to “comfortable for most people”). Again, once the initial demand for a lighter ipad was filled, sales declined. When you factor out the initial surge and the subsequent surge for the Ipad air, Ipads have been and continue to sell about 30 million per 12 month period, which seems to be the natural size of the market.

          The Mini ipad is a different story. At first, it gobbled up some of the sales of the full size ipad (2,3, and 4) for those who wanted an ipad that was thinner and lighter, but it also provided a one handed reading device to people who were dissatisfied with ebook readers but found their phones inadequate. Beset from above by the Ipad air, which displays the same content at a more comfortable size, and from below by large phones, it has declined hugely in sales and its use case today seems to be only among those who both find their phones too small and the full size ipad too big.

          1. I understand your explanation and I also think that the graph provided in the link is helpful. However, instead of segmenting by screen size, I would prefer to see an explanation describing what users actually did/do with their iPads.

            Specifically, I see a gradual but steady increase in the use of iPads for specific contexts where using a PC tends to be too cumbersome. On the other hand, I am of the opinion that the initial sales spike was driven by video and games, not productivity.

            Unfortunately, I have not seen surveys that capture that kind of data.

    2. Keep in mind this was a much larger study then the two questions you see here. I’m am extremely comfortable we know the why behind the tablet market issues and I’ve dropped many hints toward that on many articles I’ve written on them.

      We are diving into the why with all our clients who are the beneficiaries of this much larger study results and analysis.

    3. the initial sales spike hit early adopters, Apple fans and high disposable income users. it hit way faster than anyone had actually predicted which resulted in a slow down in the market at a time when analysts were still expecting growth. the iPhone Plus size made the decision of using an iPad more difficult if you were on limited disposable income. this is why Apple has to move away from comparing it to the iPhone – which users will never give up – and start comparing it to the PC where consumers are looking at upgrading their device and might consider something else. I have explained this before for Tech.pinions

      1. With a household penetration of over 50% reached quite early in the game (I recall that this figure was reached in the US by at least 2014), I consider it challenging to presume that the initial sales spike was driven by early adopters. Using the definitions in the technology adoption life cycle, a 50% penetration would mean that we have reached the early majority and that we are starting to go into the late majority.

        I find this explanation unconvincing without further proof.

        1. HH Penetration is deceiving in this case becasue it can enter the home and cover more ground than looking at what the mix of installed base is.

          Regardless, looking at how people use the tablet on a regular basis is the more telling part of the story.

        2. for iPads you also had enterprise play a role both as BYOD and enterprise liable. overall for penetration the $100 android “tablets” helped a great deal

          1. You can remove the quotes and turn your nose a bit down.

            A $100 Android tablet, such as the Lenovo Tab 10 (2017) won’t break any speed record but w/ 1GB RAM, 16 GB storage, an SD screen, µSD, OK battery and sound, it'(s perfectly fine to browse the web, play movies and non-3D games, messaging, news…

            I’m curious what the flip side to your attitude could be ? Mock users who spend $400 on a iPad they barely ever do anything more than that Lenovo can do ? That would be… most of them.

          2. I was not criticizing people who bought tablets that were lower spec and were mainly used for video consumption. I was simply pointing out that the lower price points helped penetration. I put tablets in “” because many were glorified video players from sub-brands more of an evolution from MIDs than tablets

          3. I’m mostly contesting the “glorified video player” tag, hence the quotes. That’s what many cheap tablets are used for because that’s what the kids who get those cheap tablets are interested in. Middle-age people and seniors around me use cheap tablets to read the news, communicate incl. Skype, and play sudoku/scrabble/cards. My nieces and nephews, indeed, do a lot of youtube on theirs; in my “corrupted iBrother” household, they don’t care whether they’re on the $500 iPad or $260 Yoga, and neither do their parents (actually, they gravitate towards the Yoga because of its stand and storage).

            But $260 is not “cheap”.You’re underestimating, to the point of mischaracterizing, cheap tablets. My $80 Cube iWork8 runs both Android and Windows, has 2GB/16GB/µSD/HDMI/USB, a nice low-rez screen (1280×800). Its weak point is battery, 6hrs light use 4hrs heavy gaming, enough for an evening and when I work on it with kb and mouse I hook it up to power too. I do stuff on it I could never do on an iPad, such as play WoW and Civ (lowest graphics, no raiding), run full Office, plus the baseline tablet stuff (web, mail, skype, news, mobile games). It’s pokey, but it gets the job done as long as you don’t want 3D games.I’m so happy with it I bought the 12″ version too a year later (for a whooping $200 this time ;-p). They don’t “delight”, they do the job. Devices as tools, what a concept.

            Incidentally, that’s all a lot of expensive tablets are used for too. I guess I could have gotten a $400 iPad Mini, and done away with Windows games and apps…Is there a good Civ clone ?

          4. Early tablets were often shared within the household. These shared devices were probably not BYOD devices (I would be surprised if 4-year olds were being given access to sensitive corporate data).

            Also $100 tablets were mostly video devices, or so I have read. I assume these were not necessarily purchased by early adopters.

            I still find the idea that the early sales spike was caused mainly by early adopters, encouraged by BYOD, largely in conflict with the statistics for that period.

            At least you may have to concede that $100 tablets and 8-inch iPads maybe were purchased by early/late majority customers during the initial spike.

          1. Whether or not household penetration is the right metric depends on what you wish to measure.

            If you consider tablets to be video and gaming devices, then it is definitely the right one.

            If you want to see them as household PC (which are often shared) replacements, then again it is relevant.

            However, if you want to look at usage as a work laptop replacement, then it is the wrong metric.

            As I have said elsewhere, if you don’t segment by usage and ownership categories, tablet statistics and surveys don’t make much sense.

            So going back to my original point, as a general (but potentially misleading) rule of thumb, 50% household penetration suggests early majority/late majority adoption. To state otherwise, you will need a more convincing case, possibly based on a nascent market segment within the broader tablet market.

          2. We’re wondering whether the market is saturated, measuring the total potential market. What I’ve observed around me is that the arrival of one tablet actually increases the likelihood a second one will be purchased, and so on up to total household participants.
            and that’s regardless of whether the users are young (video, 3D games for teens) or adults/seniors (news/web/comms/2D games).

            I wouldn’t split it by video vs rest, but by leisure vs work/study. And I’m not sure that typology has an impact on the desirability of a dedicated personal device: whether for leisure or work, tablets are inherently personal, everyone wants to read the paper and play at the same time in the mornings and evenings, and a work tool must be always available. I understand that’s a 1st-world POV that should probably be nuanced w/ economic conditions.
            Leisure vs Work/Study does have an impact on the budget allocated to the purchase, I’d guess, but not on the individual-centricity of the device. Heavy gaming pushes up the budget too, but I have an inkling that’s done on phones mostly.

            Bonus question: is the Nintendo Switch a tablet or a console ?

          3. Your comment here: “I’m guessing Android OEMs have given up on any work/study use for devices w/o a keyboard or stylus (Lenovo has keyboard tabs).”

            is very honest and admirable.

            My guess about work/study on cheap Androids vs iPads is that the work/study iPad apps are more performant and aesthetically attractive than similar apps on Androids (even high end Androids.)

  3. The first survey question (i.e. the user can only take one device) is indicative of the problem with a lot of research and commentary on iPads/tablets. How often is someone really faced with that choice or makes their buying decisions based on only being able to use one device? I think you would get better insights if you asked which device would they take, laptop or tablet, in addition to their smartphone.

      1. I don’t object to the question, but “phone” doesn’t belong in there at all. If phone counts, I would still bring a feature phone over any computer. It’s more ubiquitous, or at least a more ingrained form of communication, and thus skews the results.

    1. If you could only take one piece of clothing, which would you take ?
      Breaking news: blouses not that popular, you’ll never guess which piece of clothing beats it !

    2. Definitely this. Tablets are part of a vision of computing that embraces multiple devices, where you use the device that is most suited to the task instead of one device for everything. There are some jobs that I vastly prefer to do on an ipad (editing photos, for example). And there are other jobs that I vastly prefer to do on a laptop. Multiple times per week I find myself putting the ipad in front of my keyboard and switching my attention from PC to tablet and back again.

    3. Mind you, you are seeing two questions out of a much longer survey where we deeply explored device preference overall as well. They also wrote in their answer why they choose what they did and that was the most telling part of the part of this study on how they think about device priorities and which one is a necessity and which is luxury.

      1. I can only comment on what is presented!

        Would you ask a carpenter to only choose 1 saw, a painter 1 brush or a photographer 1 lens? We do not live in a single device world so I see limited value in asking questions centered around a single choice. Computers are tools and people tend to pick the best tool for the job. As long as there are not high barriers to having access to multiple tools, I see little gained by asking users to choose like this.

        1. Relevant to getting to deeper truths. Especially when we had them write in their thinking. Practical elements of behavioral science at play in our studies.

      2. I agree that at this point, free-form answers should give you much more information than statistics. Also, I would like to point out that innovations tend to start out as luxuries instead of necessities, so that is not necessarily a bad thing at this point in time.

        With an estimated household penetration of more than 50%, it is tempting to think that the tablet market is mature and saturated. However, my take is that tablets are used for a wide variety of tasks and while some use-cases are mature, others are still very nascent and only getting started. Hence lumping all these different tasks into a single statistic only hides the real potential of these devices.

        If I were running the survey, I would look for the rare but interesting opinions in the free-form answers. That is where I would expect the hints for the future to lie.

        1. I’m confident we have all those angles covered. The challenge I have with the market, which is quite different than what my gut was as we first started tracking this category, is the tablet is not viewed as a necessity nor as the most important. In fact the PC and Smartphone continually dramatically outrank the tablet in individual responses of device importance ranking.

          While there are no doubt bright spots for small percentage of the market, we see no indication the rest of the market is waking up or becoming more in line with the value that small percentage of the market sees in tablets.

          Furthermore, my thesis on behavioral debt is showing its face again when we study this space. People simply have entrenched workflows and the tablet does not present a seamless replacement for those workflows. So while it makes a ton of sense to have a tablet as a compliment to your computing ecosystem, it is not yet a suitable replacement for something like a notebook in the mind of mainstream consumers.

          Lastly, the one big variable is Gen Z. We certailnly see higher engagement with tablets in younger audiences but we are a decade away from seeing if their preferences change away from a traditinioal PC to a tablet or to somethign else entirely.

          1. Yes. I do agree that behavioral debt should be a huge hurdle, and I was also thinking that the millennials as a demographic are probably much too old to fully embrace tablets. The title of this article annoyed my for this very reason.

            One thing that might be insightful is to do a similar study in countries where young people don’t use PCs too much, and where typing on physical keyboards is not taught at school. In Japan for example, we are seeing young people who have superb smartphone skills but very little PC experience entering the workforce. These people will not have behavioral debt.

          2. The point about Gen Z is that we can only do that via obserational studies because they aren’t old enough to take surveys yet. So yes we talk to educators and IT of EDU globally to get a picture of device usage.

          3. Its always the same issue: before “comfort” comes “ability”.

            What can’t you do on a tablet that you can do on a phone or on a laptop ? Lots ! : phone calls, SMS, legacy apps, take pictures, carry it in your pocket, connect a mouse/printer, lots of storage…

            Reciprocally, what can you do on a tablet than you can’t do on a phone or laptop ? … ? Use it laying on your side in bed (that’s my mom’s use case ^^) ? Once you add a good keyboard, it’s typically not even smaller/lighter than a laptop. Nor cheaper if we’re talking iPads.

            That leaves tablets with the sliver of a niche when bigger than a phone would be Real Nice, but a full PC isn’t required, and neither is a phone. I can find 0 use cases for me personallyI ‘m not surprised other didn’t either, and I bought a 2-in-1 (actually, a dual-boot Windows + Android tablet w/ mouse, keyboard, µHDMI, USB and 256GB SD). In 8″ and 12″ so I have an excuse to take both and have some multitasking ^^

          4. I find it notable that Apple hasn’t melded iPhone capability within iPads.

            On the one device question, did you ask hypothetically what they’d choose if their tablet also provided phone capability through speaker or bluetooth earpiece?

  4. Sigh. Another day, another Milanesi article that reveals more about the author’s perceptual blinders regarding tablets than it enlightens.

    “Even now when sales are in decline, iPad remains the best-selling tablet in the market.”

    The decline in sales has pretty much bottomed out, especially if you factor out mini sales, which have cratered far more heavily than full size sales. But don’t let that stop you from continuing to think that overall Ipad sales are in a tailspin.

    “Seven years in and the debate remains the same: is the iPad the next computing platform or merely a superfluous device?”

    With the Ipad, Apple has tripled the size of their PC segment. They now sell two kinds of PCs: Macs, to those who need a traditional computer, and Ipads, to those who need a larger screen than a phone but don’t need a traditional computer (or *another* traditional computer).

    For all the tens of millions of people who were buying netbooks in 2009, tablets perfectly fulfill that niche, which would be why the netbook category imploded so dramatically after the Ipad came out. For tens of millions of people who find computers to be confoundingly complicated to use, the tablets give them access to the benefits of computing (apps, the internet) without all the complications and UI cruft that make PCs intimidating for nontechnical people. For tens of millions of people who previously had a choice of squinting at their phone or lugging around a laptop, tablets provide a third alternative – the comfortably large screen of a laptop in a device you can hold in your hands and use in any posture you find comfortable. And for a small but vocal segment of nerd bloggers, the ipad with a keyboard is the only computer they need to get their jobs done.

    Add them all up and you get hundreds of millions of people happily integrating tablets into their computing lives. But don’t let that stop you from continuing to write think pieces about whether or not the tablets are superfluous.

    1. If we’re going to move the goalposts and rename the PC as “Traditional Computer” and include the iPad as a “PC”, then lets move to a more meaningful redefinition. The iPad and Chromebooks are “Seller Managed Computers” and the traditional computer is “Owner Managed”.

      Apple (I think it was Jobs) often says “Does it have the right to exist?”. The PC’s right to exist is owner control, not just owner usage.

    2. with all due respect I have been an advocate for iPads for a long time. as a matter of fact the 9.7 iPad Pro is my main computing device when I travel so I think my view of the role of tablets is pretty clear in my actions. The reality in the market however is that Apple has done a great job over the past 7 years making the iPad look a lot like the the iPhone and as users realize how much they can get done with the iPhone the need for an iPad goes away unless u have no financial constraint. Now Apple needs to convince users that the iPad is more like “the best version of a PC” which is pretty clear in their advertising.

      1. I totally agree with this assessment
        In my opinion The IPAD is a luxury tool not a necessity which may explains its weak position in the market

      2. “Now Apple needs to convince users that the iPad is more like “the best version of a PC” which is pretty clear in their advertising.”

        Now if we only had someone who could distort reality…..
        (A polite way of calling out BS)

  5. While I understand that you can only judge on what you see in the article I would like to reiterate as Ben already explained that the survey had 27 questions overall. The goal was to understand how millennials work and collaborate which devices and apps they prefer. I actually think there is a lot of interesting tidbits that I highlight when it comes to the importance of communication and how users who clearly favor tablets use voice in a different way.

    If I was asked to only pick one clothing item I would look at the weather and depending on how hot or cold I would decide on a onesie or a a pair of shorts. Just because it is unlikely to happen it does not mean that you can’t think about it logically and still give an answer that tells me about how you think

    1. in fact many studies have proven that millennials have more tendency to gravitate towards a smartphone and a Chromebook rather than an IPad

      You should do a survey on it and you’ll be surprise with the result.

      1. This is not true and we included Chromebooks and have had Chromebooks in many of our hardware focused studies.

        1. It’s going to depend on the nature of the Survey
          You have to do it with those who have already used Chromebook and IPad, and not a general survey because the vast majority of people are not as familiar with the Chromebook as they have the IPad which is one of the most advertise computer on the market.

          People who’ve already used a Chromebook and are familiar with it, prefer it to the IPad but only if you pair it with a Smartphone not on itself

  6. More than typical comment rate. I guess Millennial is a hot button word. But I am here for the tablets. 🙂

    It seems most want to attack the methodology, but flawed or not, I think it exposes fundamental truth about the role of tablets.

    It’s a SMALL role. There is very little space between a smartphone and a laptop. That space has shrunk since the iPad was revealed.

    2-in-1 Windows devices are obviously more laptop oriented, since they have mostly traditional laptop/desktop software, and HW pointer support.

    2-in-1 iPads are clearly on the tablet side of the divide, having touch first software and no HW pointer support.

    For a larger device and traditional office work. I would still still choose a Windows device, in a clamshell design.

    If iPad ever gets a proper clamshell design, and HW pointer support, I might give it a shot in that roll.

    1. “There is very little space between a smartphone and a laptop”

      Ironically, that was kind of Jobs’s point when he introduced the iPad.


      1. His point was that there was “room” for third category between them. He wouldn’t have described that space as “very little”.

        There is significantly less room today.
        In 2010, iPhone had a 3.5″ screen and we at the dawn of smartphones, Samsung hadn’t released it’s first bigger screen Note smartphone yet.

        Today, Smartphones have much larger screens and much greater capability, laptops have been shrinking and touch screens on them are common.

        You would be hard pressed to find something on Jobs original list of things better on a tablet then, that would still be better today than on either a modern smartphone or modern touchscreen laptop.

        1. I’m not going to argue with any of that because I agree with all of it.

          There was certainly _enough_ room back then. That doesn’t mean there isn’t less room now.


        2. If I remember correctly, Steve Jobs was less assertive. He asked the question of whether or not there was room for a third category and then went to describe the attributes necessary for that category to succeed. The attributes were that the third category should be better than both a smartphone and a laptop in regards to browsing, email, photos, music, games and video.

          With the possible exception of email, I think that despite larger smartphones, the iPad is still better at all of these tasks.

          So if we believe Steve Jobs, the conclusion would be that something else is holding back the iPad. My hypothesis is that this is the familiarity and legacy apps/workflows that still strongly favor PCs. Even for this, I feel the tide is slowly but steadily turning.

          If I was to design a survey, I would make sure that it would ask users how they felt about the tasks that Steve outlined; which device they thought was the best for each.


    2. The biggest problem is that the IPad from the beginning has never been created to replace the PC but rather to extend the use of mobile smartphone in a mobile First world, but we’re living in a multiple screen world where the Tablet seems to only replicate your mobile phone use case with a bigger screen instead of outperforming Notebook, which explains why it has difficulty replacing it

  7. Looks to me that in an effort to capture some of the low-cost Windows PC market without joining the race to the bottom and slashing MacBook prices and margins, Apple is trying to present the iPad with its short list of essential functions (email, browsing, video, etc.) as an alternative to non-power Windows users. Whether Apple succeeds or not, we don’t know yet but that is going to be a protracted effort. In which case the millennials in this survey’s sample, who are college graduates and as such use their PCs for more than just the essential functions that iPad targets, is not the relevant market for iPads.

    I apologize for piling on in the comments about the highly-specific survey question but that’s like asking what someone would like for his last meal. I would ask for a big fat juicy wagyu steak and a 2000 calorie dessert, vegetables be damned. The more informing question is if one meal is going to be served to you for the rest of your life, okay for the next year, what would you choose to have in that meal?

    1. Very well put.

      Now…regarding your last meal…
      When you purchased your device you agreed to an EULA which curates your last meal. You will get a fruitarian dish. Trust us, we know better.

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