Tim Cook: iPad sales slump is just a speed bump

Tim Cook onstage at the 2014 WWDC. Photo: Roberto Baldwin/The Next Web

Tim Cook onstage at the 2014 WWDC. Photo: Roberto Baldwin/The Next Web

The state of the tablet industry has not been promising lately. Over the last few months Apple reported slumping iPad sales, Best Buy’s CEO declared that tablet sales are “crashing,” and many analysts and pundits have eagerly declared the tablet fab is coming to an end, but Recode’s Walt Mossberg has a few points to make in defense of the tablet.

While IDC expects tablet sales to flatline by the end of 2014, Tim Cook indicated to Mossberg that the future of tablets is still bright, calling the current lull in sales a mere “speed bump.”

“We couldn’t be happier with how we’ve done with the first four years of the iPad. I’d call what’s going on recently a speed bump, and I’ve seen that in every category.”

Apple sold 13.2 million iPads in Q3 2014 but that number is down from the 16.3 million sold Q2 2014, and the 14.6 million sold in Q3 2013, while sales of the machine the iPad is designed to replace, the Mac, saw its sales increase to 4.4 million Macs in the previous quarter.

Speed bump or not, there’s no denying that the iPad has become one the biggest products ever created by Apple. So big in fact, that if the iPad were a separate company, it would be bigger than Facebook, Telsa, Twitter, Yahoo, LinkedIn and Groupon combined.

To make the iPad lineup more alluring for professionals, Apple is reportedly preparing to launch a 12.9-inch iPad in early 2015. Successors to the iPad Air and iPad mini are expected to be annnounced this fall. The iPad Air is rumored to get a anti-reflection coating for easier reading, as well as 2GB of RAM, TouchID, improved cameras, and a super-fast A8 processor.

  • TeeJay1100

    Uh oh, Apple is going down!!! The ipad is now flat.. People are starting to come to their senses, acknowledging that Apple is overrated & overpriced.. Speed bump yeah right!!

  • MleB1

    Tablets can be had for a hundred bucks these days – while a local bank is offering a ‘free’ iPad Mini to new customers. They are a commodity now and, worse, they are in danger of becoming this decade’s ‘netbook’. Apple has long seen it’s iOS (and the products that runs it) as simply a portal into the iTunes Store – the rest of the functionality (largely provided by 3rd Party developers) an incidental accident.

    In some regards, Microsoft (with Surface Pro) has got it right. At tablet with a full – not hobbled – OS; albeit Win8.x sucks badly. Tim Cook won’t look at a reasonably-priced (for Apple) iPad with a full OS because he’s afraid it’ll cut into the profits of the MacBook Air and the rest of the ‘real’ computer line.

    So, short of a completely unexpected ‘insanely great’ product change, the tablet has not so much hit a speed bump as a sinkhole. And Apple is right there, too.

    • Jim

      Your argument is eloquent but it’s not 100% accurate and is exaggerative.

      The third party developers aren’t an incidental accident. It’s something Apple recognised as the key to the success of the iPhone and planned during the development of the original iPad. They worked with publishers and developers behind the scenes to make sure it launched with some pretty cool apps from big names at launch. They also planned for the iPad to run iPhone apps at the start which made it less of a risky purchase for consumers at the time, another key to its early success.

      Secondly, while tablets may be a commodity now, iPads aren’t yet. Just look at the Christmas wish lists on Tumblr and you’ll see that they’re still a hot ticket for teens. They’re still very much a lust item.

      Thirdly, 13 million sales isn’t a sinkhole. It’s a product settling into more normal times. People will still be buying iPads in 10 years time but their position as Apples second hottest product will have been lost to whatever they’re planning to announce next.

      You’re right about the Surface. Apple needs to add functionality big time. I’m sure they will though. I need my multitasking.

      • MleB1

        Thanks for your response –

        Jobs originally wanted iOS to be a sealed environment – a mobile conduit to the iTunes Store for music, video and only Apple apps. Can you imagine – only Apple apps? Fortunately, someone there talked him off that particular ledge (likely pointing out the profit one could make from having others do the hard work and Apple then claiming a percentage of the purchase price), but still tucked into the psyche of the iPhone and, eventually, iPad (recalling Jobs had said “No” to that concept – another ledge talk) is that there is no interest from Apple in even slightly cannibalizing their Mac sales. Again, I maintain its been the 3rd Party developers that has pushed the issue – for even when Apple does produce a productivity app (late in the game) like Pages, it’s incompatible with its ‘real’ version for the Mac. The potential for a ‘business friendly’ sized iPad will mean diddly squat if the software they have (and the limited hardware) isn’t compatible with what the company uses daily in-office. And iOS (and for that matter, OSX) probably isn’t it.

        Secondly – sorry, but when I see banks and phone / cell / internet companies offering a free iPad to encourage people to buy into their services, that’s a commodity. Meanwhile, regarding Wish Lists, well, I wished for a lot of stuff as a teen that I never got. And frankly, most parents (and teens) are going to see the value of a tablet that is a fraction of the price and allows for the user to ‘personalize’ the device to their individual tastes, while still being able to access 95% of the apps (or near equivalents) found in iOS.

        Thirdly – 13 million isn’t to be sneezed at, I grant you. But even Apple admits to slumping sales. Let’s face it, once you’ve got a tablet and its working for you, how often do you need to go out and get another? Especially when the OS is so limited and most ‘upgrades’ to it are compatible with older units and software?
        Beyond promises of sparkly bits (useless embedded software we really didn’t want or hardware) there’s nothing ‘one more thing’ being offered by manufacturers, including Apple.

        Apple’s only real Great Leap (or perhaps Hail Mary Pass) would be to ‘do a Microsoft’ and produce an affordable iPad with its full OSX and hardware ports and, even with Jobs long gone now, I’d suggest they’d rather chew off their own arms than hold one these aloft at a Press Launch.

  • dcj001

    “every analyst and pundit has been eager to declare the tablet fab over”

    Fab? What is a fab, Buster?

    Or did you mean to say “fad?”

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Buster HeinBuster Hein is Cult of Mac's Senior News Editor and lives in Phoenix, Arizona. Twitter: @bst3r.

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