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Two Cents (and not a penny more) on iPad and the Future of Computing

Topic du jour is the continuing slow decline of the iPad, and Apple’s priorities with regard to it and the steady-if-boring Mac. Background: Marco Arment’s blog The future of computing, the last two episodes (207 and 208) of Accidental Tech Podcast, and some of the reactions quoted in Michael Tsai’s Apple’s Q1 2017 results roundup.

So here’s my two cents, and I’ll keep it short. The ATP discussion considers the fact that even in its diminished state, the iPad sells twice what the Mac does, so why shouldn’t it command more attention?

Here’s a counter-argument that is being overlooked: the iPad represents effectively all of the “productivity tablet” market, which is a completely fanciful market I have pulled out of my ass because in the era of alternative facts we are apparently now allowed to do that. But seriously, the iPad is the only device where there’s any story or any expectation that it can or will be used to do more than read mail/web/ebooks and watch streaming video. Nobody is talking about doing creative work or managing documents with an Amazon Fire, for example, or the $75 piece of crap Android tablet at Big Lots. As far as using this sort of device for computing goes, the iPad is the only game in town.

And it’s shrinking.

Now even if the Mac sells less than the iPad, the PC market as a whole is massive… much larger than tablets, and larger still than my contrived “productivity tablet” market. And Mac’s not even 10% of this giant PC market.

So, in terms of growth opportunities, which is more realistic: finding non-tablet-users to adopt the iPad for their productivity or work needs (and making the iPad more suitable for that), or flipping more of the 90% of people already using PCs to a better version of the same thing?

Sure, Apple’s spent its whole life trying to woo switchers, and I’m not saying we need to pull in Justin Long and John Hodgman for a new series of “I’m a Mac” ads. But if I’m looking for growth, the ostensibly-boring personal computer might still be a better bet than turning around the iPad’s decline. At the very least, it’s a lot easier to identify who my potential new customers are.

Comments (2)

  1. Eugene Vilensky

    You are absolutely correct but I think their margins are what move the needle, and Intel is still taking an unacceptably large percentage of potential margin. Mac OS X on A-series chips is probably far closer than iPad Pro replacing Mac. You are right.

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