After the iPad
When the iPad was released five years ago, it was met with worldwide skepticism. But after over 20 million of them sold, sales have started to slow. What is there after the iPad?
The iPad looks like it's on its way to a slow death-- now what?
When the iPad was first unveiled in 2010, it was met with a lackluster response. In fact, according to his book, Steve Jobs, author Walter Isaacson said that the immediate media backlash left Jobs "annoyed and depressed." But if the initial response was unsavory, sales wouldn't be: the iPad went on to peak at 26 million units sold in the first quarter of 2014. A customer base that was already familiar with the iPhone but wanted a larger screen found that in the iPad along with productivity tools that enabled students to rent textbooks and businesses to run digital registers. The iPad is something between a computer and a display, with no ports besides one for charging and another for headphones. In theory, it should have lasted as a hero product for years to come.
The problem is that sales are down again: almost half of what they were at their peak in 2014, and expected to continue falling. Ipads, though easy to use and possessing the coveted Apple feel of luxury, just aren't very useful. The iPad Air 2 tops out at 128Gb for $829. At that price, you could get a hefty laptop with a 1Tb hard drive and still have money left over for a new pair of shoes. The iPad has has no USB-C port, and a shattered display (which is inevitable) will mean not just a display replacement, but a whole unit replacement because the iPad is sealed togethe; attempting a display replacement would likely end up ruining the whole device. If you don't have AppleCare+, that means a trip to the Apple Store and at least $300 out of pocket. It also won't run programs simultaneously and lacks the processing power for serious gaming. With Microsoft's Surface on the upswing, it may be time for Apple to take a serious look at a complete overhaul or trashing the tablet for good.
The question is, what comes next?
There's a fundamental awkwardness about the iPad: it's thin, yes, but also fragile. To truly be revolutionary, Apple--or whomever would like to beat Apple to the punch--would need to release a flexible device, perhaps flexible enough to be folded or rolled. It would have to withstand grubby fingers and trips to the beach, but be easy enough for the older set to operate. It would need a USB-C port and significantly improved battery life. And it shouldn't have a charging port: the next tablet, if it could still be called a tablet, would need wireless charging. Typing on an iPad is an utter nightmare: the next device would need to either project a digital keyboard for easy typing or reimagine the entire input experience.
And it will need to have the power of a home computer.
More and more, the iPad is feeling outdated and unnecessary. This may be the moment when a reinvented laptop swoops in to make it obsolete: a laptop that is nearly indestructible, flexible, easy to type on, powerful, and energy efficient. If the numbers are any indication, the time is ripe.