Finding iPad’s Future

iPad Air 2

Former Wall Street analyst Neil Cybart now focuses on Apple and writes at Above Avalon. In this excellent article, he gives the most clear-eyed assessment I’ve read of a situation I’ve lamented for a long time: the declining momentum in the iPad market.

A product that carries so much brand relevancy that it still represents the entire tablet market now finds itself the leader of a category that has lost all momentum as other product categories marginalize the tablet form factor. Although Apple is still selling more than 10 million iPads per quarter, there is something about the iPad that just doesn’t sit right with me. We have gotten to the point that the status quo will likely lead to the iPad and the modern-day tablet becoming irrelevant over time. A new direction for iPad is needed based on a fundamental rethink of tablet computing.

Cybart goes on to recommend some remedies, making the case for the long rumored “pro” version of the tablet: “A new larger iPad with nearly 80% more screen real estate than the iPad Air, dedicated accessories like a smart pen, and better covers and stands can go a long way.”

While I largely agree with his thoughts on the importance of new, differentiated hardware, Cybart doesn’t address what for me is the more critical issue: the fact that so little software innovation has happened on the iPad since its debut. Until recently, Apple’s approach has been to closely tie the iPad’s operating system with the iPhone’s, a decision that has contributed directly to consumers really being at a loss for why they need to own these devices. I wrote about this last year and argued strongly for an iPad-specific fork of the operating system. Apple has started to address that with iPad-specific features in the forthcoming iOS 9, but as I suggested back in July in this blog post, so much more can be done to make the iPad more than just a big iPhone.

Apple’s stewardship of the platform has had an air of distractedness for too long, in my opinion. In the absence of true innovation, both consumers and developers have come to regard the iPad as inessential—a deadly combination. The fact of the matter is that Apple will need to take a much more aggressive approach to innovating both hardware and software to turn this situation around.