There's No Reason To Think The IPad Is Coming Roaring Back To Life

Apple announced some new iPads today.

They look great. They’re probably the best tablets on the market.

But, it seems like the best isn’t good enough any more.

Apple sold 13.3 million iPads in the June quarter, which was a 9.9% drop on a year-over-year basis. On trailing twelve month basis, iPad sales are basically flat.

As the iPad business has stalled, sentiment around the iPad has become negative. Almost comically so.

For instance, Brian Fitzgerald, a deputy editor of The Wall Street Journal’s tech section said on Twitter, “This launch is about the iPad’s viability.”

Ahead of the iPad event, Farhad Manjoo at The New York Times wrote, “What’s the point of an iPad? Who needs a tablet in this era of big phones and ultraportable laptops? … Those are the tough questions Apple has to answer.”

Apple didn’t answer those questions today. Not in any satisfactory way. And so, if people were negative going into the event, we expect that will only increase.

Apple announced the iPad Air 2, which is a new version of the iPad Air, which came out last year. It’s 18% thinner. It has a new chip, which makes it faster. It now comes in gold.

It also announced the iPad Mini 3, but it didn’t spend any time talking about the iPad Mini 3. All the stage time was spent talking about the iPad Air 2. The iPad Mini 3 looks like it barely got any upgrades, which is weird because Apple CEO Tim Cook said that the iPad Mini has 100% customer satisfaction.

The iPad Mini is a popular product, but with Apple releasing the iPhone 6 Plus, maybe it thinks the iPad Mini is not going to be as popular in the next twelve months. The 6 Plus has a 5.5-inch screen. The Mini has a 7.9-inch screen. If you have one, you don’t really need the other.

Apple also kept all the older models of the iPad in rotation, giving it a pretty diverse line. The original, non-retina iPad Mini starts at $US249, and the iPad Air Mini 2 starts at $US499. So, Apple has a lot of price points for a lot of people.

Perhaps this diverse line of prices will drive sales. The iPad Air is great device at $US399. And the iPad Mini 2 at $US299 is also a great device.

But coming into the event, the concern wasn’t about the quality of the product. It wasn’t even about the price of the iPad. The concern is about whether or not people even need iPads. And why exactly the iPad had stalled.

Apple didn’t answer either of those questions. It obliquely responded to people concerned about the fact that the iPad is flat by saying the iPad had sold more units than any other Apple product in its first four years. It also flashed a chart showing iPad sales beating other PC makers.

The idea is that the iPad business is better than people think. But that’s not terribly convincing. It doesn’t address the lack of growth for the iPad.

The sales decline is startling since this was heralded as the next major computing platform. It was believed to be the next major business for Apple after the iPhone. Instead, it’s in decline after just four years on the market.

As for why people need iPads, Apple’s on-stage demonstrations were weirdly off-key. Apple’s SVP of Marketing Phil Schiller decided to show people how great the iPad Air 2 is as a camera. Apple also demonstrated photo and video editing apps.

The iPad Air 2 looks like it’s a great camera, but it’s not better than the iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus, which are easier to carry. The iPad Air 2 looks better for editing photos, but that’s not really a killer app to breath life back into the iPad line.

So, where does this leave the iPad? Pretty much where we started. People that were worried about the product have no reason to be less worried about it.

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