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Apple’s Q3 2014 result showed iPad tablet 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 an 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.

3 thoughts on “Stalling tablet sales

  1. On the basis I have sat on all 4 sides of the Mobius Strip, I have always – and still do -that a fair slice of the pigeon pie of ‘fault’ here, lies in the area of front of house sales staff.

    When the iPad came out, it was THE tool to have to end all problems, it was easy to sell during the media scrum that surrounded it and so nobody, or at best very few, bothered to find out if in each individual’s circumstances actually warranted an iPad over a laptop or even desktop.

    I can cast my mind back 30 years when a wee little upstarter of a program called VisiCalc had absolutely the same net effect. This spawned such monsters as Lotus Symphony, Ashton Tate’s Framework and the only remaining survivor Microsoft Office – all touted to cover all bases ever needed by the masses in a PC environment. ie: if it did word processing, database functions and spreadsheet modelling, then it could do ANYTHING! (I once knew a company that used Excel to create word processing documents!

    So, I feel there is a vast gap between what is the right tool for the potential client’s needs and what an over-zealous sales person might know.

    Just yesterday, I was told by a Telstra/BigPond front line sales bod that Foxtel Play would not be exempt from data charges if viewed through an XBOX 360.

    He was wrong, which took all of 5 minutes to check with Foxtel, and I have aforementioned info logged via Twitter.

    On a larger scale entirely. 2 years ago I overheard a sales staff member in the ‘computer division’ of a major retailer that ‘no madam, you can’t plug headphones into a Mac’ or words to that effect.

    In short then, comparing tablet sales with PC sales and smartphones is not dissimilar to comparing them to a Holden Commodore, one tonne ute and a Lamborghini Aventador.

    ie. houses for courses

  2. Analysts always predict ever-higher numbers, especially for Apple. It’s ridiculous.

    At some point, the market is going to hit saturation – even if it is because of technological constraints, not market constraints – e.g. tablets just can’t do enough at a good enough weight and battery life. The fact that analysts don’t seem to take into account an actual calculated market size (it can’t be that hard to figure out how many in appropriate income brackets and likely percentage who might buy).

    I think the market isn’t matured yet. It may have hit a slump, but as tablets get better and OEMs become more serious about making them it will grow. Just maybe not at the epic proportions it started with.


  • Bill Bennett

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