Marco Arment posits the idea that, maybe, the iPad isn’t the future of computing based on the fact that sales are down year-over-year again. He writes:
What if, like so much in technology, it’s mostly just additive, rather than largely replacing PCs and Macs, and furthermore had a cooling-fad effect as initial enthusiasm wore off and customers came to this conclusion?
I don’t think this is the case. I do believe the iPad, or something like it, is the future of computing. And I’m personally just as enthusiastic about it as a product as I was when I bought the original iPad. I use my iPad every single day.
As an aside: I think the Surface Book is certainly in the running to be the traditional PC replacement. This category is getting harder to define. What is a tablet? What is a laptop? The Surface Book surely fits into both. And, arguably, Apple’s own Macbook is getting more iPad-like with each release. Less ports, thinner, lighter. Laptops and tablets may become indistinguishable at some point.
Why the sales decrease? I agree with John Gruber:
The peak years (2013 and 2014) were inflated because it was an untapped market. Steve Jobs was right, there was room for a new device in between a phone and a laptop, and the iPad was and remains an excellent product in that space. But people don’t need to keep buying new iPads. I think the replacement cycle is clearly much more like that of laptops than that of phones. This was not obvious to me at the time, but it seems obvious now.
I’ve owned 3 iPads and my wife 2. In the same amount of time we’ve owned 6 iPhones each. iPads simply do not require updating nearly as often as iPhones. We both currently have iPads (iPad Air 2 for me, iPad Pro for her) and we likely won’t be updating for a few more years at least.
I don’t think sales are the right metric to track the success of the iPad but rather marketshare in tablets which, again, is an increasingly tough category to define.