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Stop freaking out: The iPad isn't dying

Dan Miller | April 25, 2014
By any normal measure, it was a good quarter for Apple: Revenues and earnings beat analyst estimates handily, iPhone sales were robust, even the good old Mac eked out a nice little gain. But CEO Tim Cook still seemed to be on the defensive from the get-go, all because of the iPad.

That is, of course, Apple's trump card: The future. "The thing that drives us more than any of this," Cook said, "is the next iPad, the things that are in the pipeline, [the things] that we can do to make the product even better." Don't like what you're seeing right now? Don't worry: There's always greater stuff coming down the pike.

Calm down

When it comes down to it, I have to admit that I'm with Cook on this one. A one quarter downtick does not a downtrend make. The longer-term trends still seem to favor the tablet — and Apple still has the tablet that defines the category.

Tablet adoption is still on the upswing; this is not a saturated market by any means. Two-thirds of the people registering an iPad in the past six months, Cook said, were new to iPad; compare that to the iPhone, where only half — only half! — of the new registrants were new.

And we're still in the middle of a significant long-term shift from PC to tablet. The Mac is still selling steadily, but the iPad passed it a long time ago. "We continue to believe that the tablet market will surpass the [overall] PC market in size within the next few years," Cook said, "and we believe that Apple will be a major beneficiary of this trend."

You can't really blame the analysts for their focus on the iPad: The fall in tablet sales was immediately apparent to anyone who looked at Apple's SEC filing. But despite that one short-term result, despite that one quarter's numbers, the iPad's essential selling point has not changed: It still does a lot of what people need a "computer" to do, without the cost or bulk of an actual Mac, and it still does more than an iPhone can. As long as those things hold true, I think the iPad's numbers will take care of themselves.


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