How Apple's iPad Could Flourish Once Again

Apple's iPad sales have been declining. Everyone in North America and Europe who needs or wants one has bought one. Now, Apple is faced with the need to engage new, perhaps less affluent geographies.  But also, crucially, there is the business of getting the iPad on a path to more capabilities, growing with user needs and expectations. The phenomenal sales of the MacBook Air punctuates this lack of iPad development and maturity.


The Apple iPad was an astounding technical breakthrough when it was first released in 2010.. The early reasons for its success probably resides in its simplicity and security, However, lately, sales seem to have saturated the market.

But what if the iPad sales are slowing precisely because of the very design that made it so popular? What if, in order to get sales back on the growth path, Apple has to make some minor concessions for those other users who don't find the iPad suitable for their purposes? What if the security of the iPad has hindered its potential for content creation and some educational functions? What of some customers don't have the financial means or expertise to own and exploit a large repertoire of devices, each fully utilized for its own strengths?

If that's true, then one might surmise that a shrewd competitor could exploit those weaknesses.

This may be what's happened in education where Google's Chromebooks have come on strong. Chromebooks are simpler, cheaper and perhaps a bit more rugged than expensive iPads. They're carving out a good part of Apple's iPad sales to education according to this report. "Apple pivoting iPad education strategy to regain its footing."

The trick here may be for Apple engineers to preserve what's best in iPad security and yet dramatically expand its capabilities. That could also mean, ahem, a 12-inch iPad—something I eagerly await. It could also mean an intelligent, concerted effort to bring capabilities to the iPad that were once considered the territory of the Macintosh—without iOS-ification.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has claimed, over and over again, that he's not adverse to the idea of the iPad cannibalizing Mac sales. And yet, while the iPad has evolved mildly in its features, usability and security, it also seems very locked down and stagnant. That is, for serious productivity, we turn to our MacBook Air. Understanding how and why users turn to their MacBook Air (or Pro) when they forsake the iPad on the desk may be one key to returning the iPad to sales growth.

It's not unrealistic for us to want the iPad to genuinely grow with our needs. That means unleashing more of the UNIX and hardware power underneath in ways that can make us more efficient and productive. And then harness all those enhancements with an option for a larger display.

I see many writers saying that the iPad has run its course and will never again be on a growth path. It was, they say, a fad. They point to the relatively minor enhancements to the iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3 as proof that the breed is dying.

That could well end up being true if Apple doesn't aggressively and dramatically expand the iPad's capabilities to reach a much larger audience. After all, the larger the audience, the greater the pressure is to satisfy a broad range of customers and needs. Can Apple handle the challenge? Right now, Apple's insular vision seems to be holding it back.

Next page: the tech news debris for the week of December 1: Apple's commitment to the Mac and customer love for 4-inch iPhone displays.

Page 2 - The Tech News Debris for the Week of December 1


In terms of huge, punishing, court-ordered payments, Apple's litigation against copiers, notably Samsung, hasn't paid off all that much. Over at Time Magazine, Evan Niu ponders the "thermonuclear war," Steve Jobs had hoped to unleash in order to right those wrongs. In this essay. Mr. Niu writes "Why the War Between Apple and Android is Over." Niu opines "There are a handful reasons why Apple’s war on Android would never bear fruit and why it may be giving up." Much of it has to do with the different views Mr. Jobs had and Mr. Cook now has about litigation, namely that building the best, innovative products will work itself out in the market place.

We often wonder about Apple's commitment to the Mac in light of phenomenal iPhone sales, so it's comforting to hear Apple's SVP of Worldwide Marketing, Phil Schiller reaffirm Apple's appreciation of the venerable Macintosh. In "The Mac’s Second Act: From Obscurity to Ubiquity," by re/code's Walt Mossberg, Mr. Schiller is quoted, “The Mac is still really important to us... Yes, we care about iPhones and iPads, and the new Apple Watch. But we care about the Mac just as much.”


How many payment cards does Apple have on file? Business Insider has tracked the number throughout the years and extrapolates that in Q3 2014, Apple had just short of a billion on file. Two things are notable. The first is that Apple has done that without being breached. Second, when Apple reports record revenues each quarter, it's because, in part, just thanks to statistics, there are so, so many people in a position to instantly pay with a payment card on file. And, of course, Apple Pay will augment that. Size matters.

We all know the story now about GTAT in Phoenix, their attempt to meet Apple's needs for Sapphire production and the cataclysmic events of recent months. If you were the CEO of Corning and you got wind of those problems, how would you take advantage of the situation? This nifty article at Cult of Mac digs into how Corning may have pulled a rabbit out of the hat. For now. "How Corning won Apple back and built the strongest Gorilla Glass yet."

If you're a novice at securing your personal data, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has developed a very understandable "security starter pack." It's a great primer for anyone on encryption, passwords, how to keep your data safe and protect yourself on social networks. Even more experienced netizens could benefit from this rundown of the essentials.

I am a big fan of Apple's Keynote app. Pages? Not so much. This review of the latest iWork suite at ars technica reaffirms my feelings about those two apps and brings us up to date on the latest goings on with Keynote, Pages and Numbers. It's notable for a balanced sizing up of Apple's "State-of" with these productivity apps. It's a must-read.

Have you ever wondered about the security of AirDrop? Rene Ritchie at iMore explains. "How Apple keeps AirDrop files private and secure."

We know that Android devices have significant market share, but when it comes to e-commerce, iOS has the vast majority of activity. This chart at Business Insider shows the e-commerce share as reported by three different tracking services. Despite the security claimed for Android, could it be that Android users just don't trust their device? Here's more context from the inestimable Daniel Eran Dilger. "Apple's iOS devices accounted for 78% of record setting Cyber Monday mobile sales."

Millions of Apple customers are using OS X Yosemite without problems (including me), but this article is notable for its instructive insights into a recovery methodology when something does go very, very wrong. "When Yosemite went wonky: Fixing an OS X systems failure."

Apple's iPhone 6 Plus accounted for 41 percent of all smartphone sales with displays 5.5-inches and larger. However, the iPhone 6 Plus only has a modest fraction of new iPhone sales compared to the iPhone 6. I've seen numbers from 1/8th to 1/5th. The ratio appears to be improving as the supply of iPhone 6 Pluses improves, but the message is still there. The iPhone 6 with a 4.7 inch display is much more popular.

Could it be that the phablet phenomenon was over-hyped? Could it be that there's a population of Apple customers that really like that 4.0 inch display? Could it be that in order to maximize sales, Apple needs to cater to a broader spectrum of users? Here we go.... "New 4-inch iPhone 6 Reported. 5 Reasons Apple Must Make It."

Finally, most Internet articles are short and zippy. The author is fearful that you'll lose focus and send your attention elsewhere. However, there are certain issues that deserve a full discussion. This next essay is one of those. I'll mention it because, as Apple enthusiasts, we (and our children) are typically involved in iTunes, Apple TV and our favorite movies. So if you've ever wondered what's going on behind the scenes with the MPAA rating system and the current American values related to sex and violence, this is a longish but must-read analysis. "The ongoing failure of the PG-13 rating."


Mac Pro and iPhone 6 images via Apple.

Particle Debris is a generally a mix of John Martellaro's observations and opinions about a standout event or article of the week (preamble on page one) followed by a discussion of articles that didn't make the TMO headlines, the technical news debris. The column is published most every Friday except for holidays.