How Apple Could Have Increased iPad Sales, But Didn’t

| Editorial

According to analyst projections, the growth in sales of Apple's iPad has come to a halt. Why might that be?

Philip Elmer DeWitt Writes:

"With growing competition and the rise of the phablet (mini-tablets that double as phones), nobody is expecting a repeat of Q2 2013, when sales grew 55% year over year. In fact, nearly half of the 34 Apple analysts we've heard from so far -- 21 Wall Street professionals and 13 amateurs -- expect the company to report next week that unit sales in fiscal Q2 2014 declined year over year."

Like many, I am very curious about this state of affairs. While I'm not fond of suggesting what Apple ought to do, from time to time, I like to explore scenarios. What could Apple have done differently and why?

1. Introduce a 12.9-inch iPad "Pro" earlier. We've heard plenty of rumors. There don't seem to be any showstoppers. The display is about 1.3 time larger diagonally, so has about 1.75 times the area as a 9.7-inch iPad. But then, there's correspondingly more room for a battery. Previously, I suggested that a 12.x-inch iPad would be good for many of Apple's markets. Why Apple didn't do this remains a mystery. Perhaps the estimation was that it would dilute the product line and not be a big seller.

2. Introduce a new iPad Air this spring. Apple might have tweaked the fabulous iPad Air with Touch ID, 802.11ac, and a better speaker arrangement. Currently, a few clever case makers have introduced "acoustic scoops," or "sound deflectors" to make up for the iPad's below average speaker configuration. That would have created some buzz, but obviously, Apple isn't ready quite yet for iPad Air 2. The lull frustrates writers who are eager to write about new, cool stuff.

Macally's clever case with acoustic deflector.

3. Obliterate Samsung in the Courts. Apple has been trying to punish Samsung for, allegedly, copying parts of iOS. Samsung is putting up a vigorous defense, and while the Apple's energetic protection of its patents has given pause to other potential copiers, sales of Samsung's (and Amazon's) tablets continue more or less unabated. Although not at the level Samsung has claimed. This is a long-term effort, and hunger for instant obliteration, like a video game, remains unfulfilled.

4. Make iOS More Friendly. Here are some questions to ponder. Has Apple done everything it might do to distance itself from Android on a tablet? Are the sandboxing and other security methods getting in the way of making the iPad more friendly and capable? I'm not in favor of making the iPad less secure, but many observers, including Jean-Louis Gassée, have suggested that perhaps it's time for Apple move iOS on to the next stage of technical development.

Of course, millions of people love the iPad and buy them by the tens of millions each quarter, but the perception is that the competition has caught up in the fundamentals. iOS 7 was a flattening and look-and-feel makeover. Are we on the precipice of the next phase in the evolution of the iPad, and Apple isn't quite ready? That kind of work takes time. WWDC will tell us more.

Jumping Through Hoops

Apple is like a black box. We know the inputs and the outputs, but it's hard to figure out the mechanism inside. And so it's hard to critique or quantify the apparent course Apple is taking or suggest obvious errors. There are some things Apple could have done to spur iPad sales in the short term, but they're probably not the long-term solution. Plus, the march of time, good old-fashioned R&D, ROI analysis, technology sequencing, healthy competition and the state-of-the-art in component parts have all combined to create undue frustration by everyone except, likely, Apple.

A watched pot never boils.

Comments

Steve Nagel

We dance around the circle and suppose; Apple sits in the middle and knows. Apologies to Frost.

graxspoo

iPad seems overpriced to me. I love my 9” Nook HD+. It’s light, thin and has a nice high resolution screen, and it set me back a whopping $150.

iJack

I use my iPad mini as a cell phone all the time, thanks to Skype. My friends and family on both cells and land-lines tell me that it sounds like I’m standing next to them, so there is nothing wrong with the iPad’s mic. Now about those speakers, Cupertino….

geoduck

On your recommendation I got the MacAlly case shown in the picture. It’s very good. The sound scoops help a lot. It’s reasonably priced. Thanks for mentioning it last fall.

As far as the 12” model, I agree that it would be a low volume, niche product. But so is the Mac Pro. Having a flagship product in your line is not a bad thing.

As far as obliterating Samsung in the courts; Samsung in this market is like having roaches in your house; you’ll never kill them all. No matter how many battles or campaigns Apple wins, Samsung will still be there, copying, stealing, twisting tiny legal loopholes in order to keep selling rip off products. Apple could get a Grand High Universal Court of the World ruling that Samsung had to pull out of the market for phones and tablets utterly and worldwide and they would find some way to keep going. A shell company, a different brand name, puling all the existing phones and then claiming the ruling did not apply to future products necessitating that Apple and the Courts go through it all over again. Like most parasites Samsung will continue.

One issue I do have with Apple though is their focus. They do seem to be rather single minded. When they were developing the iPhone and iPad it felt like the Mac line didn’t get much attention. Now that Apple seems to be focused on wearables and health monitoring it seems like the iOS system and products are suffering the same fate. They’re no nearly as bad as Google who seems to jump from one shiny new thing to the next with all the focus of a puppy in a pile of leaves. But Apple’s R&D staff often seems stretched a bit thin. This has cropped up repeatedly over the years. Even when they made most of their money off of Macs it seemed like they had just enough R&D Staff for one major product at a time and everything else had to slow down and wait for the big project to finish.

GraphicMac

Philip Elmer Dimwitt predicts lower than expected numbers this quarter? Really? Because anyone who isn’t a complete dolt knows that the stock price drops a few months before the iOS device updates in the fall (because everyone knows a new device is coming soon), then rise just before the update (based on rumors that the new device can cure cancer in any person that buys it), then drop right after the update (when it doesn’t actually cure cancer)... then slowly build up after the complaints about the device subside (when people realize that it’s a great phone, even though it doesn’t cure cancer). Then the cycle starts all over again.

Analysts. They need their own show on Comedy Central.

Lee Dronick

  Analysts. They need their own show on Comedy Central.

A reality show

The Guesstimators

iJack

“When they were developing the iPhone and iPad it felt like the Mac line didn’t get much attention. Now that Apple seems to be focused on wearables and health monitoring it seems like the iOS system and products are suffering the same fate.”

I’m not sure that Apple is in control of what gets our attention; that is media/rumor-driven. I agree that their personnel have been stretched when Apple is trying to get a new product out the door, but that’s likely not the norm, since new products are few and far between.

cincyflygrrl

“The lull frustrates writers who are eager to write about new, cool stuff.”

Because writers, and probably analysts, are bored they go to great lengths to make stuff up about Apple. 

If there’s nothing to write about then the publications don’t need writers.  Then fabrication is a strategy for continued employment.

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