Consumers seem to be showing less and less interest in Apple's iPad line as time goes on, and that's not necessarily because of the device's competition from other tablets.
In February, IDC released research finding that people bought 3 million fewer tablets in the prior quarter than they did a year before that.
The iPad specifically not only faces that trend, but also cannibalization from other Apple products, including the iPhone and Mac. Apple CEO Tim Cook saids as much on the company's earnings call on Monday. He acknowledged the cannibalization, while maintaining that he doesn't see this as a particularly negative thing.
He also conveyed optimism for the iPad's future, particularly in the enterprise. Apple entered an exclusive partnership with IBM last year that sees Apple bringing IBM's big data and analytics capabilities to the iPad and native apps for for IBM cloud services.
During the earnings call, SVP and CFO Luca Maestri noted that the iPad has consistently been the top tablet in the enterprise, and cited a recent survey from Changewave, which found that among corporate buyers planning to buy tablets in the next six months, 77% plan on buying iPads. He also said that in addition to IBM, it is working closely with over two dozen other business software and solution providers including Box, Docusign, Microstrategy, Revel, and ServiceMax to bring more solutions to the iPad.
Here's what Cook had to say (via SeekingAlpha's transcript of the call):
Number one, we have to stop having the situations where we sell through more than we sell in, where we don’t have to have an inventory correction. That was over a million units. Two, have we had cannibalization? The answer is yes. We’re clearly seeing cannibalization from iPhone and on the other side, from the Mac. And of course, as I’ve said before, we’ve never worried about that. It is what it is. That will play out, and at some point, it will stabilize. I’m not sure precisely when, but I’m pretty confident that it will.
The IBM partnership, I think, is in its early stages in terms of bearing fruit here, but everything I see I like on it. I’m a big believer in the ability for iPad to play in a major way in enterprise. And so I’m looking forward to seeing that play out as we move forward.
If you look at the underlying data, it makes you feel a lot better than the sales do. And so things like first time buyer rates, the latest numbers from the U.S. are somewhere around 40%. And if you look at China, they’re almost 70%. And so these numbers are not numbers that you would get if the market were saturated. And so I continue to believe, even though I’ve seen people write that, that I think that theory is not correct, and do not see that.
We also see usage numbers that are off the charts, so far above competition it’s not even in the same planet. And we see customer satisfaction at or near 100%. And so these kind of numbers, along with intent to buy numbers, everything looks fantastic, the ecommerce numbers.
And so my belief is that as the inventory plays out, as we make some continued investments in our product pipeline, which we’re doing, that we already have planned and have had planned for some time, between that, the inventory playing out, the enterprise starting to take over, I think still I believe the iPad is an extremely good business over the long term. When precisely it begins to grow again I wouldn’t want to predict, but I strongly believe that it will.
Apple has so far sold 34 million iPads in its fiscal year 2015. That's compared to 135 million iPhones and 10 million Macs. During its Q2, it sold 12.6 million iPads compared to 16.4 million the same quarter last year.
The company did manage to set a March quarter record for iPad sales in Japan and an all-time high for sales in China.
The iPad turns five years old this month. It's been the top seller in its category every year since.
Image via Apple