iPad and tablet sales have been falling sharply. In 2013 Apple’s head honcho, Tim Cook, predicted that the iPad would overtake PC sales by 2015. He was way off, as sales have fallen every quarter for two whole years, down 10% last year, across all tablets.
I was never enamoured by tablets and wrote extensively on how their massive procurement was a disaster in secondary schools, FE and HE. I doubted their ability to enhance learning and skills, especially as students moved on to long-form writing, coding, graphics and so on. The procurement processes were pathetic but the pedagogic arguments were worse, if they ever existed in the first place. In many cases, I suspect, they inhibited learning.
Another factor was the market, where smartphones simply adjusted screen size and extra functionality to trounce tablets. Phablets are now the norm as screen sizes grew, then shrank, but eventually settled on an optimally large-but-not-too-large format. They cluster around a size that was just big enough to watch videos and read long-form text, while still being pocketable. Even Apple increased the size of iPhones, as they saw the threat. Inevitably, the smartphone won on power, size, convenience, functionality and price.
Tablets aren’t killing laptops but smartphones are killing tablets
I first started to note this when my wife and sons simply switched over to their larger phones or used laptops, while the iPad lay idle and unloved in the corner. I don’t see that reversing. Can’t say I’m sorry. The iPad was always a consumer not a producer device. It’s still odd to see people peck away like chickens in meetings on iPads. If you want to write – get a laptop. And before you say ‘attachable keyboard', simply turning a tablet into a laptop, makes it precisely that – a laptop. iPads also suffer from functionality limitations – not being able to run apps simultaneously. Nexus 7 tablet anyone? Nope. Google killed it. In that sense, it was always something stuck between a proper computer and a truly mobile device – neither a fast, sleek fish nor fully mature fowl. Large-screen phones from the top and fast, productive, long-life battery laptops from the bottom crushed it. Laptops and smartphones have the legs, while tablets, increasingly, look like a passing iFad.
Another set of nails being hammered into the tablet coffin is AR/VR and AI. Don’t see many folk poking around the streets playing Pokemon Go with tablets. We have entered a new era, where mobility really does matter. Computing is being taken into the real world. As the many layers of AR meld with RR (Real Reality), Pokemon Go being the fist mass application, AR is here with a global bang.
VR on mobiles through Google Cardboard has also caught the imagination. It is this that will drive the VR market, with instantly downloadable experiences. Once cameras on smartphones have 3D capture, it will fly. Smartphones democratized comms and knowledge, VR democratizes experiences.
Beneath all this is the massive, invisible hand of AI. Apple’s souped up voice and messenger plans along with thousands of other AI inspired applications are already making smartphones super-smart, with better personal security, better interfaces, better functionality and better apps. The awkwardness of the smartphone interface has given was to smartphones being really ‘smart’. The tablet era is over.