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Figuring Out the iPad's Place 333

An anonymous reader writes "One of the most interesting notes from Apple's recent quarterly report was that iPad sales are down. Pundits were quick to jump on that as evidence that the iPad was just a fad, but there were still more than 16 million units sold. iPads, and the tablet market as a whole, clearly aren't a fad, but it's also unclear where they're going. They're not convincingly replacing PCs on one end or phones on the other. Meanwhile, PCs and phones are both morphing into things that are more like tablets. New form factors often succeed (or fail) based on what they can do better than old form factors, and the iPad hasn't done enough to make itself distinct, yet. Ben Thompson had an insightful take on people demanding desktop functionality from the iPad: 'This sounds suspiciously like the recommendation that the only thing holding the Macintosh back was its inability to run Apple II programs. It's also of a piece with the vast majority of geek commentary on the iPad: multiple windows, access to the file system, so on and so forth. I also think it's misplaced. The future of the iPad is not to be a better Mac. That may happen by accident, just as the Mac eventually superseded the Apple II, but to pursue that explicitly would be to sacrifice what the iPad might become, and, more importantly, what it already is.'"
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Figuring Out the iPad's Place

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 02, 2014 @01:41PM (#46900913)

    It exists already in the niche that exists between the full computer experience, and the phone experience. Why the hell would it have an infinite growth and replace computers and phones?

  • Market saturation (Score:5, Insightful)

    by danceswithtrees ( 968154 ) on Friday May 02, 2014 @01:42PM (#46900931)

    Perhaps sales are slowing down because of market saturation. The iPad was the first of its kind (that people actually bought, used, and liked). Almost everyone who wants one has probably bought one and the slowing rate reflects market saturation. A diminishing pool of new buyers and a steady pool of people replacing older models would help to explain the "dwindling" sales.

  • by Kenja ( 541830 ) on Friday May 02, 2014 @01:43PM (#46900937)
    Sales are down because we already have one and don't need two. The things are not nearly as disposable as people seem to think.
  • From the Time article:

    I [...] still believe what I wrote back in 2011 when I said that all the general-purpose devices we use for computing and communications–desktop computers, laptops, smartphones, tablets and maybe even a do-everything console like the Xbox One–are PCs. They just happen to come in a variety of form factors, with different capabilities.

    To me, it's not a personal computer unless the person who owns it controls what computing is done on it. Nintendo has rejected games such as The Binding of Isaac, and Apple has rejected applications such as WiFi-Where. This makes these platforms not general-purpose. Thus there's no "do-everything console" unless you count set-top Android devices such as OUYA or set-top PCs such as the forthcoming Steam Machines.

  • by NoNonAlphaCharsHere ( 2201864 ) on Friday May 02, 2014 @01:50PM (#46901007)
    Agreed. If only there were an OS that had the same user experience for phones, tablets and PCs...
  • by rudy_wayne ( 414635 ) on Friday May 02, 2014 @01:53PM (#46901029)

    The future of the iPad is not to be a better Mac. That may happen by accident, just as the Mac eventually superseded the Apple II, but to pursue that explicitly would be to sacrifice what the iPad might become, and, more importantly, what it already is.'"

    What the iPad "already is" is an inferior computer. It's great for niche applications. When I hired a plumber he pulled out his iPad, used it to process my credit card payment, tapped a couple of buttons and emailed me a copied of the bill.

    But it's not a general purpose computer. The small screen, no keyboard and no external ports make it useless for doing any real work. Except for niche applications, it's strictly a content consumption device.

  • Re:Not surprising (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Friday May 02, 2014 @01:57PM (#46901067) Homepage

    Phones are slowing as well, Short of me breaking it or the battery dying, I can easily see my HTC ONE M8 lasting 4 years. It's probably why HTC made sure the battery was not replaceable in the phone... to ensure it will stop working.

  • by BasilBrush ( 643681 ) on Friday May 02, 2014 @02:04PM (#46901143)

    A tablet doesn't need a "full desktop experience" to run an SSH server or a proper copy of CUPS.

    Guess what? In terms of sales, the ability to run SSH or CUPS is somewhat less important than the ability to run knitting pattern apps.

  • by InsultsByThePound ( 3603437 ) on Friday May 02, 2014 @02:05PM (#46901149)

    After the bump in resolution, I just don't think there's much reason to upgrade. Speed is okay. The tech industry increasingly has to look at a future where it sells products that will be "good enough" for most people for a decade instead of 2 years.

    What smart phones/tablets went through the last 7 years is what desktop and notebook PCs went through in the 80s/90s/early00s. Now very few people consider seriously getting a new desktop every 2 or even 4 years. And yes there will always be a segment that wants more speed, but as they grew the market for computers, that segment did not increase in proportion with it because most of those power users were already there by the nature of their work. Many of the power users that get added afterwards probably replace the ones that drop off for one reason or another.

    And considering ewaste, this is not a bad thing. Except for companies whose stock price depends on them always pushing out more product than they did the same quarter last year.

  • by lagomorpha2 ( 1376475 ) on Friday May 02, 2014 @02:12PM (#46901245)

    So what you're saying is, the feature that is ultimately lacking from modern tablets is "planned obsolescence".

    Apple, Intel, ARM, and all screwed up when they designed systems that would still work 2 years down the road.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 02, 2014 @02:13PM (#46901255)

    Not an iPad fan but I would say that your plumber is using it for real work. Billing and Receipt of Payment is an awfully important part of any small business.

  • by BasilBrush ( 643681 ) on Friday May 02, 2014 @02:18PM (#46901311)

    Thus there's no "do-everything console" unless you count set-top Android devices such as OUYA or set-top PCs such as the forthcoming Steam Machines.

    OUYA failed big time. In fact we've had consoles for nearly 40 years, and no open console has ever succeeded. So maybe, just maybe, that's not what people want. There's no big demand for an open console.

    And lest anyone says that open phones have been successful. (Leaving aside the dubious claim to Android openness.) Android phones have been successful by being the cheap option. Not by being the open option. The mass market isn't like the niche that populates Slashdot. They neither know nor care about this concept of "openness" in software.

  • by Anonymous Brave Guy ( 457657 ) on Friday May 02, 2014 @02:22PM (#46901347)

    Maybe in a couple of year's I'll replace mine.

    I wonder whether part of the problem is that after having one of these devices, people aren't so keen to replace them. Our third gen iPad is about two years old, and already we have problems with app upgrades breaking things, and of course Apple themselves pushing us to upgrade to a new version of iOS that gets terrible reviews. Plus the general closed ecosystem isn't an obvious downer for most people when you buy the first time, but after finding all the little frustrating things it can't do, I can see that at least some significant proportion of users might be put off.

    Tablets as a format seem to be useful for a certain niche: basically, they're good for receiving information and some basic interaction, but not serious interaction/content creation. But there are more tablets than just Apple's, and Android tablets seem to be increasing their market share at Apple's expense. So it might be a market saturation issue with the tablet format, but I suspect there's more to it than just that in the specific case of iPads.

  • by MBGMorden ( 803437 ) on Friday May 02, 2014 @02:28PM (#46901393)

    That's the computer market as a whole. From the early 80's up until about 2005 computers were always slow. Slow to the point where people got frustrated, and the never ending progression of speed made upgrading every 2 years (or even faster) the norm.

    Then sometime around 2005-ish things seem to get to a point where people weren't waiting on the computer anymore. An upgrade meant little because outside of gaming the computer likely wouldn't "feel" any faster.

    Heck I used to build a new computer annually, but I just rebuilt my computer about 2 weeks ago that I had been running since 2009. Not because it was too slow, but because half the USB ports had died on the motherboard.

    At this point its gotten to be about like a car. I don't buy a new computer because I want something "better" anymore. I buy when the old one is broken or has more problems than are worth fixing. Tablets are the same way. Honestly I think phones would be too except that due to the way they're carried they suffer a lot more wear and tear and simply break more frequently.

  • Price Problem (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Moof123 ( 1292134 ) on Friday May 02, 2014 @02:30PM (#46901433)

    We have a couple iPads in our house, and I find myself resentful of the price to upgrade, so we haven't. The competitors are nearly as good, and cost half as much. The price points for more memory in particular outrages me. Why is anyone shipping a premium tablet starting at 16 GB of non-upgradeable storage these days!? How can you justify another $100 just to get to 32 GB?! 64 GB should be the starting point for tablets in Apple's target premium price range.

    Earlier on I could understand the premium price, as the competition was simply nowhere near the polish and functionality. But the extra bells and whistles Apple has added just are not keeping pace compared to the premium they are still charging.

    I long ago realized I was not in their target demographic for phone and PC sales, and now I think my next tablet is not likely to be an Apple one. Somehow they feel they are exempt from following the steady march downwards of electronics prices.

    Heck I'd even be interested in shelling out extra for an iMac, but every time I check they are still not upgradeable, and come with rather underwhelming processors/memory/GPU considering the extreme markup.

    Oh well.

  • Jobs and the collective was clearly of the opinion that "most people don't need trucks".

    They don't. Most of the guys, and it is mostly guys who own trucks, use them as penis compensators driving to their cubicle jobs.

    "Commercial" trucks owned by businesses are a different story.

    Same goes for PC's. Most people are content consumers. While they might have a PC for some purposes, it doesn't have to be a high end "Ferrari" PC, it can be a sub-compact "Hyundai" PC, and they can do a lot of their computing on a tablet or phone.

  • by ilsaloving ( 1534307 ) on Friday May 02, 2014 @03:12PM (#46901835)

    I'll volunteer the term "Casual Computing".

    Tablets serve one particular market exceedingly well, better than any other device produced: Casual consumption.

    Flipping through email. Browsing Reading documentation. Any task where the primary interaction is absorbing content, is excellent for tablets. Especially when you are doing so in a place other than your desk. I don't need a tablet when I'm at my desk. My tablet is utterly fantastic when I'm on the bus, the train, or when I'm in bed and I really really wanna show my spouse that new Hamsters Eating Burritos video.

    Trying to shoehorn tablets into being a desktop replacement is just stupid. Sure, you can approach that level by buying a bluetooth keyboard and maybe a mouse if your tablet supports such things, but why would you do such a thing when using an honest to god computer is so much better for the task?

    Turning them into a phone-replacement is a possibility, but only within a very limited range of use-cases.

    Having a drop in sales was inevitable. Most people who really wanted one have now got one.

  • by Slime-dogg ( 120473 ) on Friday May 02, 2014 @03:19PM (#46901935) Journal

    a) it *has* an external port

    Whose licensing is controlled with an iron fist, compared to a lot of 1980s PCs that used standard (or at least unpatented) external interfaces.

    Logically speaking, you are persisting a fallacy, specifically a straw man argument. That the interconnect is licensed and controlled is irrelevant to the fact that it exists and functions as an interconnect.

    The original statement, here:

    But it's not a general purpose computer. The small screen, no keyboard and no external ports make it useless for doing any real work. Except for niche applications, it's strictly a content consumption device.

    has been refuted, regardless of your views on the port itself.

  • Re:Price Problem (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ilsaloving ( 1534307 ) on Friday May 02, 2014 @03:28PM (#46902037)

    The thing is, Apple doesn't sell 'product'. They sell 'experience'. How well does it work? How well does it *stay* working, over the long term?

    I used to have a iphone and I had the same complaints as you. Upgrading was too expensive. Not expandable. Not enough control over the device.

    So my next device was a Samsung Galaxy S3. This phone has to be the single biggest piece of shit I have ever purchased. Unstable. Burned through battery, to the point where after having owned it for only 3 months, I was getting less than half a day charge out of the thing. Sure, I got the control and upgradability I wanted, but I was forced to sacrifice stability and reliability and security.

    These devices are only cheaper when you don't feel that your personal time is worth any money.

    I bought a couple of landfill android tablets just so I could have something to read documentation with. Basically, my entire use case was to be an e-reader. The quality of the tablets was so bad that I couldn't even do that well. A battery life of a few hours at most. While in standby.

    So now I have an iPad. It's by far the best mobile device I've owned. No, I can't plug in SD cards and expand the storage. Yes, it was expensive. But let me ask you this... how much is it worth to you to know that you can pull out an iPad out of it's sleeve and be guaranteed that it's going to still have battery life. That the screen will turn out, without fail, when you hit the power button?

    Apple products are not flawless. They have problems too. There is not a single thing produced by man that doesn't have problems now and then. My iPad has crashed now and then under mysterious circumstances (rarely happens now, after the latest update...) but when you compare that to the experiences I've had with the alternatives, I'll take another Apple product hands down, because I have a life to lead and I have no interest spending my time trying to figure out why something I paid good money for doesn't want to work.

  • by m.dillon ( 147925 ) on Friday May 02, 2014 @07:56PM (#46904467) Homepage

    Urm. You are implying that this isn't a problem on Android devices? Sorry to break the news to you, but App incompatibilities on iOS get fixed. I've seen Apps on my ipad-2 break every once in awhile, but they don't stay broken for long.

    App incompatibilities on Android, particularly when it relates to a driver bug that requires a vendor fix or app-developer work around, often do not EVER get fixed. It's one reason why apps tend to get developed for iOS first, because developing an Android app that works across umpteen different devices each with its own hardware bugs is a nightmare.


Forty two.