Former Apple Ex Jean-Louis Gassée: To Survive, The iPad Will Have To Become More Mac-Like

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Wall Street consensus is that when Apple announces its Q2 2014 quarterly earnings on Wednesday, Apple’s year-over-year iPad numbers won’t look good. On the low end, at least one Wall Street analyst says that Apple will have sold 23% fewer iPads this year than last year in the same quarter; on average, Wall Street expects Apple’s iPad sales to have declined 0.7% year-over-year.

How can this be? This is the year that Apple unveiled the Retina iPad mini and the beautifully redesigned iPad Air, after all. How is it possible that these iPads can be selling worse than the inferior iPads a year ago?

Ex-Apple exec Jean-Louie Gassée has a theory, and it’s not one that Apple fans are going to be happy to hear: the iPad is a big tease, and fundamentally less useful than both a smartphone or a laptop.

According to Gassée, sales are stalling because the iPad’s “meteoric debut raised expectations that it can’t currently meet.” The problem, he says, is the fact that the iPad is positioned between a smartphone and a laptop, but no one is clear, even four years later, what this actually means. There’s an exception to every rule, but most people can’t seriously do any productivity tasks on an iPad.

Gassée says this is going to have to change. It’s going to have to become more MacBook-like:

The iPad represents about 20% of Apple’s revenue; allowing iPad numbers to plummet isn’t acceptable. So far, Apple’s bet has been to keep the iPad simple, rigidly so perhaps, rather than creating a neither-nor product: No longer charmingly simple, but not powerful enough for real productivity tasks. But if the iPad wants to cannibalize more of the PC market, it will have to remove a few walls.

Specifically, the iPad is a computer, it has a file system, directories, and the like — why hide these “details” from users? Why prevent us from hunting around for the bits and bobs we need to assemble a brochure or a trip itinerary?

What do you think? Would you like a more MacBook-like iPad, or is Gassée full of it? Let us know in the comments.

  • Ray Cheshire

    I see the ipad as a screen to the cloud and in that respect it’s no different to most modern computers. Yes an ipad can be used productively in the right context but it is no desktop computer and why should we want it to be? Windows tablets (not the RT version) want to be everything and the latest are remarkably good in that respect but ipad has never been positioned as such. The clue is in the name- it’s a pad useful for notes, the odd image etc and productively that’s about it. As an entertainment device for games, reading and browsing social media and the like it’s ideal.
    Others may see things differently.

  • Sander Cortenraad

    From the mind that brought you the Newton MessagePad, ladies and gentlemen…

  • AAPL_@_$101_Is_A_Done_Deal_:)

    My take is that Apple isn’t working hard enough to reach potential iPad users. Apple isn’t aggressive enough to hard-sell to corporations, health institutions and schools. Apple has this idea that they can simply sit back and let buyers come to them. I didn’t think most tech companies worked in that manner. Many have divisions where the salespeople go out and get business. Apple will continue to do whatever it feels like and nothing is going to change. Apple will simply let companies like Samsung or Microsoft take corporate sales away from them and iPad sales will continue to stagnate. Apple shareholders will continue to get stiffed by a wealthy company that doesn’t know how to grow shareholder value.

    As for Gassée, he’s just a blowhard who doesn’t know WTF he’s talking about. Apple has sold tens of millions of iPads and he’s deciding no consumer knows exactly what they’re using iPads for. No product does everything. Apple has had far better sales success with the iPad more than any tablet that came before it that could do a lot more such as those Windows (do everything) tablets. It seems as though consumers wanted something that was less complicated to use than some desktop OS in a tablet form.

About the author

John BrownleeJohn Brownlee is a Contributing Editor. He has also written for Wired, Playboy, Boing Boing, Popular Mechanics, VentureBeat, and Gizmodo. He lives in Boston with his wife and two parakeets. You can follow him here on Twitter.

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