Stalling tablet sales

Apple’s Q3 2014 result showed iPad sales dropped nine percent year-on-year while Mac sales were up by 18 percent.

That’s not the story industry analysts and commentators told us. This time last year research companies predicted rising tablet sales would eclipse the falling PC market.

The CEO of America’s largest electronics retailer says tablet sales “are crashing”. Re/code reports:

The tablets boomed and now are crashing. The volume has really gone down in the last several months.

Meanwhile smartphones continue to sell.

I have a problem with commentators and analysts who view smartphones versus tablets versus PCs as a zero sum game.

Sure there are iPad-only users, just as there are PC-only users and smartphone-only users. But the three device classes do not exist in isolation. Distinctions are blurry. A phone with a five-inch screen isn’t far from a iPad mini. Microsoft’s Surface range straddles the gulf between tablets and PCs.

And anyway many people own devices in two or three of these classes.

It’s possible the tech industry got it wrong. Hardware makers put too much effort into tablets and missed the real action in the phone market.

However, phones have something else going for them that tablets and PCs do not. Many, perhaps most, smartphones are sold on contract. That puts customers in an automatic two-year buying cycle. There’s little compelling need to refresh a two-year old tablet or laptop. With the phone it happens regardless.

Word processors still geared to print

Word processors need to get out of the 1990s.

It’s a long time since I used a word processor to create a printed document. Yet word processors are still made as if the goal is a sheet of paper.

Take Microsoft Word:Mac 2011. It offers six ‘views. All of them pay homage to print. At least three of the views go out of their way to reproduce what looks like a printed page on-screen along with cheesy skeuomorphic designs. You can’t use Word for long before coming up against page breaks.

What an antiquated idea that is.

Apple’s Pages 5.0 feels more modern, yet it still offers a line across the screen to tell me where a page break might fall. And depending on the settings paragraphs move around to accommodate those page breaks.

It gets worse. The default setting of the standard Pages 5.0 template assumes you’ll want to have page headers and footers. I haven’t used headers or footers since WordPerfect 5.1 — kids ask your grandparents.

Google Docs has its faults, but at least there is an option to not show pages. The web-based company can’t quite bring itself into the 21st century though. Google’s default setting is what it calls the ‘paginated view’.

I would like to see Apple and Microsoft offer non-paginated views. Perhaps they do. I can’t find them in any documentation or support forums.

On one level this is just a grumble. I prefer minimal writing interfaces, the less distraction the better. A page line might not be much distraction, but I’d still rather not see it.

There’s a deeper complaint. The fact that word processor developers are so conservative that they feel the need to include paper-like views and make those views the default, tells me they are too conservative full stop.