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.

    • JimGramze

      Apple has been very aggressive in the education and business markets and is being very successful in both. Where you get that they are being lackadaisical is beyond me. Everywhere I go in my little town where a mobile device is used for commerce, it is an iPad. Everyone I know with kids in a school that plans to go with a tablet has already been issued an iPad by the school or plans to do so are already in the works.

      Gassée, one of the masterminds that almost destroyed Apple while he had the chance to lead it, carries no weight on anything regarding what Apple should do. He already proved he doesn’t get it and should not be quoted in an article except to say, “clueless person has clueless things to say”.

    • myninja

      Apple has iPad users in 95% of the Fortune 500 companies right now. What are you talking about? Ya Microsoft and Samsung spend more time marketing of what you see. But trust me Apple has a pretty good lock down of sells to corporation.

  • Majipoor

    I think that way too much “informed” people think they know better than Apple how to run their business.

    • D R

      Yeah, he helped run Apple into the ground, then left for a startup that made an OS that was rejected as being clearly inferior to SJ’s NeXT OS.

      This is just a “I’m a sad old man, and would like to see my name on the Interwebs every now and then” quote.

  • Jim Wilson

    Totally Disagree with the opinion of the Ex-Appler. We were early adopters of the original iPad in 2010 and have purchaed the iPad 4, and Marilyn and I are both using iPad-mini retina displa with 128GB, AT&T versions.

    Personally I do almost “everything” on the iPad mini. Its coupled to logitech’s keyboard cover making it an amazing Touch-Screen mini Laptop. The iOS7 system with about 150 amazing Apps, its 12 hour battery, its under 16oz weight. Having a blog FAU4U2.WordPress.com and written over 450 articles with a readership of some 50,000, all of which were written and graphics produced on the iPad mini… We’ve done our Taxes each year using TurboTax for iPad… Teaching digital imaging at FAU, I use the iPad to create all the lessons and image edits using Photoshop Express and Photogene… Apple’s Pages, Numbers, make document production easy. PDF Expert is great for dealing with PDFs, including signing then using Notability… I rarely use a PC, expect for several very large spreadsheets that I assembled on a PC using XL…

    AirPrint makes printing to our Brother HL-3170 color laser simple for our two iPads and two iPhones from anywhere in our Apartment, no wires whatsoever…

  • Jim Wilson

    As to iPad Sales, one can have Explosive Growth for only so long. PC Sales are dropping each year by 10% to 14% year over year… many are replacing their laptops for iPads. I did and so did our 23 and 26 year olds. As Apple continues to develop its Ecosphere, more folks will migrate to Apple’s iPad. When/IF Apple releases their rumored 12.9″ iPad Pro, I will get it with a keyboard Cover, which will give me more real estate to do more detailed work, now done on the iPad mini. When/If Apple comes out with a 5.5″ iPhone phablet, then most of my portable work will be done on the Phablet, and the rest of my work on the iPad Pro… Yes, with the release of an Apple Phablet and an iPad Pro, there will be some migration from some of their own products, but its better to loose product sales to other Apple products, than to cannibalize these sales to the Competition. Free markets are a great thing. It forces companies to build better products, and we “VOTE with our WALLETS” very time we buy one product over another.

  • darylayala

    OS X on the iPad. That’s where the money is at.

  • Gordon Bonenfant

    In terms of sales… I’d suggest that after the initial explosion of iPad’s into the classroom, consumers have no need to go out and buy an iPad. Elementary schools, here locally, will provide iPad’s to students who can not afford one. Once the school iPads are in use and around the home, there is no need for a family to buy an iPad.

    The utility of an iPad has always been an issue. An iPad does exactly the same thing as an iPhone, except make calls, and has a bigger screen. Commuters (1000’s here in the oilsands) don’t want to pack more than a phone to work. The upcoming iPhone 6 will absolutely cannibalize iPad sales. Myself, with an iPhone 4S, and thousands of others have been waiting 2 years for a phablet sized iPhone, & those less patient already went the Samsung route.

    The glacial pace of annual iPhone upgrades has been a joke, a game that pays off well for Apple, and one they play, as marginal sales from consumers rolling over cell phone contracts is significant. iPhone improvements have bee a slow joke. The phablet iPhone 6 will be the final outcome of a long, drawn out upgrade path. With the pending iPhone 6, the iPhone will be a mature market….. the product can be taken no farther. The iPhone 6 will mark the peak of iPhone sales, and bring in sales numbers that, going forward, will never be able to be replicated by Apple.

    As to the utility of an iPad…. The phablet iPhone 6 will be the just right, go to product. I believe brilliant products such as Hewlet Packard’s HP Envy series of powerful laptops, which include touch screens, will see massive growth, as consumers become more aware of the benefits: A product that can surf using touch, and be productive with the utility of a pc.

    PS (edit) A touchscreen Apple laptop MUST be in the pipeline.

    • Nick

      I’m glad you don’t work for Apple. Touchscreen laptops are an awful, counter-productive gimmick. Not to mention the sacrifices you have to make to make an OS touch-friendly ruin the traditional interface (e.g. all of Windows 8).

  • Larchmonter445

    With a logitech keyboard, a few apps come to life, like a macbook. You get productivity when you move from stylus or finger-typing to keyboard. He’s correct.

    And seeing the system and getting access has to happen. Or it’s just a display system for photos, books and streaming services.

    It’s nice to have, but not a real productivity tool that is first choice. Certainly, the iPad is like owning a small sports car. Fun, but you don’t go on long road trips or use it to haul anything. Too limited as a general tool. Though it is awesomely constructed and one of the best technology devices ever created.

    • Gordon Bonenfant

      Only the most foolish fanboys and girls would own all 3 (phablet phone, iPad device, & laptop / pc) much less upgrade them annually. If HP markets their Envy line, I think it can be huge for them. Microsoft was almost hopelessly late to mobile…. but their app system, the same app able to run on a Window’s phone, Surface, & pc / laptop is the route Apple should now copy…. with integration instantly available over the cloud….. perhaps even allow iPhone apps to run on Microsoft pc’s. Getting app content in users hands would be huge for their app store, which, with its baked in 30% margins, can not be ignored.

      • PMB01

        I disagree. I own a 5S, 3rd-gen iPad and MacBook Pro and they all serve a different purpose. I use all 3 (technically) at work because they each perform a specific, needed function. It’s not foolish at all. I’m deep in the Apple ecosystem and love having everything work together so smoothly! On that note….
        iPhone apps on Windows will never happen. I guarantee that.

  • digitaldumdum

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

    Pronouncements like this are why he’s a “former” Apple Exec. Why anyone even consults the likes of Gassée or Sculley is beyond me. I imagine the current Apple execs are too busy actually working to talk to the “press.”

  • Morgan Blackpowder

    My points have already been made below. Thanks guys!

  • Carlos Alfredo Garcell Melero

    If Gassée is to be right, then the whole tablet market is a big chasm, because even though Android is a much more open system than iOS will ever be, you still interact in, pretty much the same way, with an Android tablet, so should Android tablets also become more Chromebook-like? I think the iPad is just fine the way it is, it allows for productivity task, if not as advanced as the ones you can undertake on a MacBook, it allows for fantastic reading, which makes it perfect for studying and leisure-reading moments, I think Gassée is not taking into account the things the iPad does right and the market it once created and helped develop.

  • outkasted

    May I have an ipad pro with stylus please

  • David B. Ermine, KM

    If there really MUST be an all-in-one device (and that need isn’t entirely clear to me), the idea of an iPad that can boot either to OS X or iOS may make sense. That way you can have simplicity for media consumption and basic communications, and “power user” mode for work. I think that Apple correctly perceives that pursuing a “flying car” model of product design results in a device that isn’t optimal for either task – which is why OS X and iOS have been converging in appearance, but not otherwise. I would probably just buy a MacBook Air in addition to my iPad. The form factor of each is best suited to their respective purposes. Otherwise you end up with quasi laptops (tablets with attached keyboards) and quasi tablets (laptops with removable or reversible touch screens) — “flying cars.”

  • Barry Allen

    more to macbook, would be such a plus to the user, to be able to do more with the ipad, mobility, easy to use, easy to comprehend, but with a more control os the iOS for the user would be much appreciated and needed, my opinion.

  • Jose Ali Vivas

    Apple is really focus in deliver the best in a minimalist fashion. I am very productive every where thanks to the mobility/performance that’s iPad brings to me. We do not need a table to interact with this device. We read books in a bed without any other thing to stay confortable with. As Steve Jobs said: “Windows is as truck…, because is trying to do everything..” The iPad fits my needs perfect.

  • iluvatar

    I don’t think Gassee knows what he’s talking about. The Surface is more like a laptop than an iPad and it’s absolutely horrible to use, let alone get any work done on it. Touch feels more like a gimmick than something that’s actually usable on it. The Surface seems to be having an identity crisis as to what it actually is. I think Apple got it right, the iPad works with the rest of the ecosystem, but is its own thing. It doesn’t have to be exactly the same as the desktop OS. It does what it needs to do extremely well. If I needed something more like a desktop that was portable, I’d buy a laptop. I often use Pages and Numbers for work, and with the iCloud integration now, its fantastic. I can work on my iPad, and then access and continue working on my documents from my PC at the office if I want too. I absolutely hate using the Surface. I think it would be a mistake if Apple tried to copy that.

  • irish2u2

    Ray Cheshire has it right. The iPad doesn’t need a file system because it does have the Cloud and slowly but surely more powerful productivity apps are migrating to the platform. Can anybody say MS Office? I am sure eventually the iPad will get more powerful but right now it’s a bridge device between getting things done and having fun. FWIW, the Newton was a brilliant device that was priced too high and marketed too low.

  • sarahjk404

    I love the iPad as it is honestly, I mean we have the iMac the Macbook pros etc for all the major tasks. In any case I wouldn’t find myself wanting to work on an iPad (as a designer) screen being too small, probably programs that I need would make it a pain – there would never be enough storage, or enough Ram and in consequence the comparatively affordable rates. Email, Social media, games, magazines, word documents, spreadsheets, tv, music, movies – all can be done with the iPad so what’s really missing?

  • Steve Prowse

    There are a LOT of iPad 2’s out there, these may not support forthcoming iOS versions (8+?). At that point sales will increase again. Oh and don’t forget that they need a battery change after four years or so.
    As for MS they had the offer from our College to demo the Surface to our Principal. After two months they failed to even send us a demo unit of the Surface and Pro 2. Huge fail.
    Our Principal now has an iPad.

  • chromeronin

    After having to go through an update on a surface rt because the wifi driver kept crashing, I reslised one of the things I really like about my iPad is that it ISNT a complicated desktop pc. I have a Mac mini for that.

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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