The iPad’s Fate

I was going to title this post the Tablet’s fate, but we all know there isn’t a tablet market but an iPad market. So while this article will share some general points about the use of tablets as a whole, the broader focus and larger category questions are about the iPad.

When looking at the overall tablet market data, it is important to note how tablet owners, and iPad owners, in particular, love the product and find it an invaluable part of their life. The issue I think the tablet is up against is how for many, it is more a luxury than a necessity.

Overcoming being merely a luxury has always been the tablets, and the iPad in particular, challenge. It is notable there is a minority group for whom the iPad is a necessity. However, it is a tiny minority.

For several years, our primary research around the tablet category has looked for signs sentiment is changing around the tablet. We explore whether consumers are shifting more usage, specifically from their PC or Mac, to their iPad. During this research, we did often find small pockets of consumers who were moving more productivity workflows to their iPads it remained a small percentage of the market. Our conclusion after a few years of focused research on the category is consumers still primarily use the iPad as an entertainment device, and it remains mostly isolated to that use case by the majority of the market.

The Tablet (iPad’s) Crossroads
I’m beginning to wonder if iPad is up against a crossroads. While Apple’s initiatives are worthwhile to keep promoting iPad into new use cases, if market sentiment does not change it is a worthy question to ask how much more Apple should invest in advancing iPad to a full production product vs. the Mac.

Of course, we can take a position of choice in answer to this question. Yes, consumers should be able to choose the best product or tool for their life, but as of now, the primary devices consumers use and consider essential for most workflows are the smartphone and PC/Mac. If sentiment does not change around iPad, then I think it may be worth Apple shifting strategy back toward the Mac as the mass market large screen computing device.

Develop Once Publish Anywhere
Heading into next weeks Apple WWDC, there will be a lot of talk and speculation about ways Apple may be unifying macOS and iOS (iPad OS). While I don’t think we will see some hybrid operating system, I do believe we may see more of a unification of development tools making it easier for developers to write iPad and macOS apps at the same time.

This subtle shift in strategy may be precisely what both the Mac and iPad platform need. The one thing missing from the Mac ecosystem, that iPad has, is a robust app ecosystem. While it is true the Mac has a solid base of apps; the iPad app ecosystem is vastly more abundant and more robust.

Hopefully, if Apple does indeed go this route, the Mac ecosystem of apps could grow significantly and add new levels of depth that can only be found on iOS at the moment. As a Mac user, the one thing that kept luring me to iPad as a productivity machine was the number of apps on iOS and in many cases the ability to use the same apps I use on my iPhone day in and day out on iPad as well.

While I indeed remain hopeful the broader consumer market will understand the iPad’s full potential, the reality is people are still flocking to PCs/Macs as their primary work/productivity devices and those who have iPad still mostly use them or content consumption and entertainment.

In the midst of overall stagnant sales of iPads, and declining of tablets as a whole, the market may simply have made up its mind about the role of these devices in their lives and it may be best for brands to accept what the market has decided.

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Ben Bajarin

Ben Bajarin is a Principal Analyst and the head of primary research at Creative Strategies, Inc - An industry analysis, market intelligence and research firm located in Silicon Valley. His primary focus is consumer technology and market trend research and he is responsible for studying over 30 countries. Full Bio

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