Home » Amazon, Apple » For iPad, Less Is More If It Comes With Good Content

For iPad, Less Is More If It Comes With Good Content

19 March 2016

From Seeking Alpha:

Although it has been delayed a week from its original launch, rumors continue to buzz that Apple will debut a new iPad Monday. Usually reliable sources suggest the new iPad will shift the product line away from the Air philosophy of the last two iterations and towards the Pro model, which was debuted in larger-screen form last year.

Apple’s (presumed) move actually keeps with the prediction of Seeking Alpha’s own Mark Hibben. However, it may not be the correct move. Typical of the “consumers don’t know what they want” company, Apple appears to have decided to go against the prevailing trend in the tablet market.

. . . .

 I am not accusing Apple of being idle. To his credit, Apple CEO Tim Cook has not tried to hide anything. When iPod sales got small enough and Apple Watch sales disappointed, Apple simply folded them into larger categories to hide the gory details. Despite some suggestions he might do the same with iPad as sales went into freefall, Cook has taken the open and honest route.

. . . .

One such move: enterprise, which Jobs famously shunned, but Cook has made a full-court press to woo. The recent release of the oversized iPad Pro was the latest step, and the biggest. Cook already had Apple working with his former employer, IBM, to push Apple hardware to enterprise customers and collaborate on vertically integrated software for specific businesses. Now he has a piece of hardware to match Apple’s new ambitions, with a number of features built into the iPad Pro that suggest it might be the first tablet actually built with businesses, not consumers, in mind.

Apple is also tackling the software side. In addition to creating new apps with IBM for enterprise, Apple is also working on Classroom, to help make iOS more appealing to schools.

. . . .

 But it was not enough. Apple’s recent sales figures showed another decline in tablet sales, down almost 40% in unit sales from the 2013 peak and down 25% from even last year’s depressed number. It’s possible iPad Pro simply was too new and not available in sufficient quantities. Maybe it hasn’t been given enough time to move the needle. That’s certainly Apple’s preferred take on it. Cook says drawing enterprises into the iPad ecosystem will take time. Given Apple’s twelve-figure cash hoard, Apple can certainly afford to be patient with a new strategy, but what it can’t afford to do is ignore evidence it may be on the wrong track, especially when that evidence comes in the form of a competitor in hot pursuit to supplant it.

. . . .

 [Amazon’s] $50 Fire tablet vaulted it all the way back to third place for tablet sales over the holiday period last year, a 175% increase in a single year. If Samsung (OTC:SSNLF) falls victim to the same sales decline as Apple, and Amazon posts another strong year of growth, it may take over second place this holiday season. Amazon’s tablets have long been mocked as “fruitcake tablets,” things people buy for children or loved ones as gifts, but don’t want for themselves.

They are smaller, less powerful, and have lower resolutions. But they are much, much cheaper. Amazon has long since made its philosophy, and strategy, clear. It sees tablets as mere gateways to customers. Fire is sold more or less at cost to encourage the purchase of both digital content, and more importantly, Prime memberships, which spur sales of Amazon’s physical goods in the general retail sector.

This is anathema to Apple, which not only considers itself exclusively a purveyor of premium products, but also inherited from its late founder a visceral distaste for any suggestion a tablet should settle for such a small role in the human condition. When Steve Jobs released the first iPad in 2010, he had only one regret, as documented in his official biography. He had set the bar too low. More than one reviewer said they loved using their tablet to consume content, but it lacked the necessary tools to really be a creator of content. Jobs, who usually didn’t have much use for outside criticism of his ideas, took the reviews hard because he thought they were right. When he designed the iPad 2, one of the last products before his death, he pushed to incorporate content creation tools like a second camera and more powerful software.

. . . .

 This attitude, that tablets are for content creation as well as consumption, has outlived its creator at Apple to the present day. Tim Cook himself made explicit reference to it when launching the iPhone 5s in September 2013. Apple was just starting to get some early evidence that iPad’s growth was levelling, and he spent a considerable amount of time at the keynote pushing the theme. Apple devices, he said, were “great for consuming content,” but they were “incredible for creating content.”

. . . .

Meanwhile, “The Everything Store” was positively embracing the ideal of consumption. Fifty dollars is a breakthrough price, but it also means consumers know they aren’t getting everything they would get with a $500 iPad. Amazon has to make trade-offs to hit that price target, and their success hinges on if they can identify correctly which aspects of a tablet’s functions, specs and capabilities customers value most and which ones they are willing to go without to achieve savings.

This is sort of the mirror image of Apple’s problem, which is to keep coming up with new capabilities that persuade people to keep paying up for their top-of-the-line model. Amazon has come to focus almost exclusively on content consumption as a tablet’s reason for being. Its cameras are mediocre, its screens just big enough to enjoy a movie but not really big enough to work on. But it gives literally thousands of free apps to every Fire owner, and free trials of its Prime Music and Prime Video services. And it keeps cutting prices.

The fact that Amazon tablet sales rose while Apple sales fell suggests Amazon may be on to something. At the very least, Amazon seems to have a better finger than Apple does on the pulse of what consumers want to see as incremental improvements in their tablets. Lower costs for hardware and content seems to trump stronger processor power, bigger screens or better cameras. Even Cook’s ambition to put iPads in every school may fall short, as schools on tight government budgets will certainly consider cost as one of the prime factors in determining whose tablets they purchase.

Link to the rest at Seeking Alpha

PG says (the visitors to TPV notwithstanding) far more people are interested in consuming content than in creating content.

Apple’s marketing pitch to the contrary, many more iPad owners use their iPads to consume content than use them to create content. Perhaps a certain coolness associated with content creators rubs off on the iPad, but, as with virtually all tech hardware, last year’s big new thing costs a fraction of its former price this year.

The downward pressure on product prices never stops and a corresponding pressure on Apple to create astounding new products all the time continues.

The competition between two extraordinary companies like Apple and Amazon is fascinating to watch (at least for PG). However, PG doesn’t think Apple will ever be capable of competing on price, but Amazon shows signs that it may be able to compete on breakthrough product creation and design — see Amazon’s Echo and Alexa, for example.


Amazon, Apple

24 Comments to “For iPad, Less Is More If It Comes With Good Content”

  1. I’m one of those visitors to PV that is “interested more in creating content.”

    I sit at my desk to do that – with a full size keyboard, a robust mouse, a graphics pad with stylus, and two big screens that I’m not continually wiping finger oils off of. Along with terabytes of disk on which my local research materials reside, as well as all of my notes and works in progress. And a hard-wired connection to my router for fastest speed.

    Creating content on anybody’s tablet – forget about it. Like trying to chop down a redwood with a Boy Scout hatchet.

    I bought the cheapest (meaning least powerful) Kindle Fire primarily for testing to try to make sure everyone can consume my product. Learned that lesson in my previous life as a software developer – keep the worst possible computer alive as long as you can for testing – because that wonderful application is very unlikely to work the way it does on the developer’s top of the line, $3,000 system.

    I reference people back to the post by Digital Book World from, I think, yesterday? You can have absolutely stunning content – that is absolutely useless to 99% or more of its potential consumers.

    • wise.thanks Reality.

      similar here. old hardw, much old and current software; testing easy. 2 cinemas, but also the Pro which tested for graphics against our intuos which is ancient huge 12×16 or something only working with performa.

    • I’ve sat in front of a big display and keyboard for at least eight hours a day for the last forty years creating content: programs, reports, presentations, standards documents, a couple technical books. I still sit in front of a keyboard and display for five or six hours, but for the remainder of the day, I’ve switched to a Microsoft Surface. I am handwriting this on my Surface now. Holding a stylus is a relief for RSI damaged fingers and wrists, and the studies that say hand writing stimulates different areas of the brain are credible to me based on my experience.

      My tablet is no Boy Scout hatchet. It has reduced pain and increased productivity. It is also easier on the back than a laptop. It has not completely replaced my desktops and laptops, but it a useful addition to my toolbox.

      • Reality Observer

        Hmmm. I don’t have RSI myself, so you are probably correct for your experience.

        For me – with psioratic arthritis – even attempting more than five or six minutes of handwriting is good for a day of extreme pain.

        Now, if I had a need for handwriting for some reason – I would simply get an appropriate app for my graphics pad.

        Thanks for chiming in, though – one way is not the correct way for everyone. The Surface is a good tool for you, but definitely not for me.

        And, yes, if I am ever at the point where growing my potential market by around 3% to 5% will mean significant money – then I will buy one of the high end devices for testing purposes, and take the extra time to make the content format into a high-end product that the high-end consumer expects for their high-end device (and maintain two versions then, sigh…).

      • sounds interesting… Marvin…

        it’s true some prophylaxsis [sp] for wrists and fingers is a good thing

  2. Went to the site to read the article but got blocked at the second page by a popup that I could not get rid of. Suggestions, anyone? I really wanted to read this article but don’t want to hand over my first-born child in order to do so.

    • I had the same issue, but judging by the first page and what PG excerpted, it’s not really even worth trying to circumvent. Like “Apple Watch sales disappointed” (er. What? Disappointed whom? Especially given it captured 75% smartwatch growth in 2015Q2 — which was when it launched, in April).*

      I’d say PG is right that Apple will never be capable of competing on price — but that’s something Apple has never done, anyway. Below, Dan implies he thinks their products are unreasonably priced, but really, “reasonable” is as subjective as “quality” is frequently purported to be here. Wasn’t Apple literally the most profitable company on the planet for a ridiculously long while until Alphabet (nee Google) overtook that distinction? Their prices may be high, but a lot of people willingly and happily pay them, and the market continues to support them (despite “analysts'” and “pundits'” whinging otherwise).

      I think it’s a mistake to think of Apple as competing with Amazon, or vice versa. Amazon’s intention is to create the very best online retail experience possible. Apple’s intention seems to be to create the very best possible experience in the usage of its products. Amazon’s products are designed to get out of the way so that users can consume content. Fires and Paperwhites are designed to basically disappear while users read ebooks and watch Amazon Instant Video and listen to Amazon Music.

      Apple’s products are decidedly not. Apple’s products are designed such that the usage of the device is the experience itself. That’s why Apple designs hardware with such care and software that it ensures can be updated to the latest version. Some people see that as being control freak-y — others as being more secure and a better experience for usage.

      I’m in the latter camp. I tried to use Android for so long but I could never get the latest software without either resorting to inferior, beta-level handsets or rooting the thing to install the latest. I switched to iPhone when T-Mobile agreed to be acquired by AT&T, and haven’t looked back since, and use Apple devices for tablets, laptops, phones, and now a watch. But then, I’m also a Prime subscriber and read only on a Paperwhite and buy, retail, pretty much only from Amazon (in fact, I bought the Apple Watch from Amazon. Because Amazon’s return policy is easier, longer, and more convenient). I had a Fire tablet, but found that I wanted the tablet for more (including web-browsing, image editing, and even writing, when I wanted to), giving it up for an iPad.

      I think the iPad sales decline is dramatically overanalyzed. I’m sure iPad sales have declined — mainly because for most people, there hasn’t been a compelling reason to upgrade from either the iPad or iPad mini retina. The boosts in speed have been negligible, really, and I think we’re getting to a point with most of these devices that they won’t require such regular upgrades. Regardless of what is announced on Monday, for example, I’ll probably stay with my iPad Air 2, and I’ve been using the same first-gen 15″ Retina Macbook Pro since the year after it came out, and will most likely continue to do so until it breaks or dies.

      Fifty dollars is a breakthrough price

      Especially for such a mediocre product. Which is kind of the point. Apple doesn’t care about breakthrough pricing. It wants to create breakthrough hardware and software.

      Also, worth noting, Apple likes its profits, while Amazon has pretty notoriously eschewed them, favoring instead reinvesting revenue into its own businesses.

      * https://www.strategyanalytics.com/strategy-analytics/news/strategy-analytics-press-releases/strategy-analytics-press-release/2015/07/22/apple-watch-captures-75-percent-global-smartwatch-marketshare-in-q2-2015#.Vu21hMfcunh

      • Google didn’t become the most profitable company, it, briefly, beat Apple in market value based on share price. Apple is still much more profitable than Google and continues to be one of the most profitable companies on Earth.

        With it’s huge resources and money in the bank, Apple could easily compete on price tomorrow. But why should it? If you’re the most profitable company on Earth, maybe you should be careful about changing directions.

        The basic price of an iMac hasn’t changed in two decades, or the basic price range of Mac laptops, even as Windows computers get cheaper and cheaper and Chromes are sold at bargain basement prices. Apple has no interest in competing in that world, and no need to. It sells plenty of computers at higher prices, and pockets the extra profits. Yes, that might be frustrating for someone who doesn’t have enough money to buy them, but that’s just smart business. Apple dominates, almost totally, the market for high end computers, and that’s where the real money is.

        There’s so much steady good news at Apple that any bad news makes headlines. In terms of tablets, yes, iPad sales have gone down, but so have all overall tablet sales (maybe Amazon is doing a little better against the trend). Low end tablet sales have been falling too. Apple still makes tons of money on expensive iPads and sells millions of them at a big profit. Why should it throw away those profits to chase the lower end of the market?

        It appears that the real issue with tablet sales dropping is larger screened smart phones are replacing them (at least for now). All of Apple’s drop in iPad sales have been made up by increased sales of it’s iPhones, particularly with the help of the larger screened iPhone Plus. Apple can’t be too unhappy if someone chooses to buy a more expensive iPhone Plus rather than upgrade their old iPad.

        Customers move in trends. They will binge on a certain kind of product and then lose interest, and then gain interest in them again. iPads might have been the two door muscle cars of their time, and now everyone is moving to SUVs. General Motors or Ford isn’t going to get too upset if people buy their trucks rather than their convertibles, as long as their company is growing and increasing profits and gaining customer base. That’s what’s happening with Apple.

        I suspect, in a few years, iPad sales will begin growing again once Apple makes a new version that has compelling enough features to get people excited. Or Apple’s effort in making the iPad Pro the new portable business computer will pay off.

        Apple’s core strategy couldn’t be any different than Amazons. And yes, Amazon is coming out with a lot of pretty cool cheap stuff. (I think the Fire is fine as a cheap tablet and I prefer the B&W Paperlight for ebooks.)

        Apple, at it’s center, is selling OSX and it’s variant iOS. This is the core operating system that runs all it’s computers, tablets, phones and even the Apple Watch. The number of people using that operating system in one way or another continues to grow bigger and bigger, even as Windows market share continues to shrink. Amazon has tied itself to Android, which is a very popular operating system, but shows no signs of stopping the continued spread of iOS and is not being adopted by the high end of the market. We’ll see if in the long run Amazon’s dependence on Android is a good thing or a bad thing. It’s clearly starting to hurt Samsung.

        In the meantime, Apple is laughing all the way to the bank.

      • What is going on with the iPad line is exactly what happened with the Mac line in the 90’s, just a bit quicker.

        The original Mac was designed to be a computing appliance: no modularity, no expandability, limited customization, pretty much a closed system. And it sold based on that model. For a while…

        Problem is, computers aren’t appliances and even people who valued simplicity eventually became literate enough to want to do more. Or, if they didn’t, then they saw no need to upgrade. If all they really needed was what the Mac did, then there was no need to buy another one. With the Mac, when Jobs was ousted, Apple needed to go beyond the market for appliance computers and they turned to the corporate market. So the Mac II was born. A Mac in PC clothing. The results were… mixed. It sold but it never made much of a dent in the corporate world because PCs got there “firstest with the mostest” and Apple was playing catch up in most corporate areas. Biggest exceptions being desktop publishing and later illustration. Problem being, the big money in corporate was and is in the inhouse applications and the infrastructure/overhead functions and those ran on big iron and/or PCs. That has not changed in the 20 years since. The iPad partnership with IBM, like the earlier partnership from the taligent days, is about using the Apple hardware as front ends to IBM systems, not about getting the corporate applications on Apple hardware. That is not going to sell the boatloads of iPads needed to make up for the iPad 2 and 3 users who are happy with what they have and see no need to upgrade.

        What Apple needs to do is stop fooling around trying to put iPads where they can’t fit and give customers what they really want, a Tablet Mac. The more time they waste trying to turn iPads into full function computers the harder it will be to sell *anything*, Mac or iPad, into the corporate space. Because Microsoft and its OEMs are steadily evolving PC designs to counter Apple’s strengths without losing the PC’s strengths.

        If Apple is unwilling (or unable) to make Tablet Macs now, they may be better served going after other markets with other products (the rumored car, SetTop boxes and internet TV, etc) than again showing up late to the corporate computing party. Because that party is headed into the cloud and that is shaping up as a war between Amazon and Microsoft and even Google, Oracle, and IBM are far behind those two. Apple is nowhere in that arena and what they do best is of no value to the glass house gangs.

        Going after corporate was a bad idea in the 90’s and it’s a bad idea now. They should rethink. Or, “think different”, for real.

  3. “However, PG doesn’t think Apple will ever be capable of competing on price…”

    In my opinion…Apple has never cared one bit for keeping its products reasonably priced. Apple has forever tried to create propriety based pricing, on a few products, attempting to squeeze as many dollars as possible out of every Apple customer’s wallet.

    Amazon, on the other hand, embraces “long tale” marketing. Offering continually lower prices, over a wide range of products, coupled with a level of customer service usually reserved for superior space aliens from the planet Contricium. (Yes, I know…Amazon is not ALWAYS the low cost leader.)

    Certainly, Amazon and Apple are two different types of companies, but that line is blurring as Amazon brings to market more and more tech products.

    Both companies have created a cadre of raving fans but…in my opinion, again…Amazon does it with execution, value, depth, and exemplary customer service.

    Apple does it by creating an emotional elitism that allows it to shove it’s appendage up its customer’s backsides. And in response they get, “Thank you, sir. May I have another?”

    My home is a house of Bezos. (Except for that one aging iPhone in Mrs D’s purse. Soon to be replaced with something from Samsung. I hope. :))
    Yes, I’m a shill for Amazon. As long as they can continue to answer the question,, “But what have you done for me, lately?”


  4. Apple products are intended to be aspirational…

    …and succeed despite breaking the primary rule of such products: limited availability. Very good marketting at work. A lot of buyers of their products can’t really afford them, in rational terms, but nonetheless buy them for invidious consumption purposes, as status symbols, which makes the iPhone, for one, a favorite target for thieves.

    With that kind of cachet associated with the brand, actual functionality is secondary and always has been.

    Macs, for example, were early on described as computers for people who don’t like computers. Which made them very popular with people in publishing and the media. 🙂

    Jobs knew his marketting.

    • Jobs knew his marketing, but he also was uniquely interested in using computers to foster creativity (including consuming creative content). Apple was way ahead of the game with MacPaint, MacDraw and then iMovie, etc. It was one of the first companies to make Podcasts easily available (helping creators and consumers). Anyone who thinks the iPad isn’t useful for creating anything should check out what computers DJ’s use for creating music mixes. (Very often the iPad.) Garage Band on the iPad is a terrific creative content creator.

      The new iPad Pro is a huge leap forward in drawing tablets thanks to the Pencil and some revised software. The long term effect of that I think is going to be to strengthen Apple’s grip on targeting creators.

      And yes, the inspirational value of having a computer that creatives like to use has served Apple well over the years, even through it’s dark days when Steve Jobs was pushed out. There is also value in marketing your company as the “business” computer (which Microsoft did for so long) or as the “value” tech maker which is what Amazon is doing.

      But it’s really hard to argue with Apple’s profits and longevity, even as companies like IBM fled the PC market, Blackberry fell apart, Compact, Dell, Commodore, Radio Shack, etc disappeared,. Apple has been very been smart in targeting high end creatives. A lot of tech companies have gone bankrupt pursuing the business or value markets. Given all the famous failures in tech business, it seem odd people keep arguing Apple should lower prices to sell more units. Commodore sold tons more low cost Vic computers than Apple sold Macintoshes during the same period. What did that do for them long term? Nothing.

      But in terms of Jobs, I don’t think the push toward the creative market was simply strategy. It was where his passion was.

  5. We’ve been a big Apple family for years–since our first MAC in the mid-nineties. Prior to that. For years, we simply couldn’t afford Apple stuff, but once we were a bit more flush, we got iPod, iPhones, MacPro laptop, two Minis, and m iMac. Hubby is a software engineer, and most of his engineering pals loved their Macs, not so much Windows. When he taught in the 80s, they had Macs. When we tutored at the group foster home: Macs were donated to the home.

    He only got windows PCs/laptops because of work requirements and for years.

    However, we’re already talking about a Samsung for my next phone, and my latest laptop is an inexpensive Toshiba.

    Why? Prices. The Great Recession reduced our household income and we’re heading into retirement zone in a decade. We know Apple is hoarding cash, and that, added to the disgusting collusion with publishers, makes us think that they need some humbling. There’s no reason (given they outsource to China) that they cannot reduce prices.

    So, unless we get some amazing raises in income (not likely, but never know), we’ll become budget non-Apple buyers. Amazon’s tablet prices are super-tempting. I own several, having upgraded almost annually over the years.

    We love Apple products, but Apple prices, not so much.

    I’m sad Amazon didn’tn come out with a really competitive phone: I’d have bought it when it was upgrade-time, if the reviews had been great.I was rooting for them.

    • Yup.
      The phone was a mistake. Not in the design per se, but in the timing. It was simply two years too late.
      If it had been released when the rumors first filtered out it might have survived but the market for (non-apple) premium phones is giving way to the market for value phones. Also, the thing about phones is that the big bucks really lie in the connectivity and that means the telcos. Dirt cheap hardware there isn’t as useful moving content as tablets.

      And Tablets are headed two ways; high-function devices at moderate prices and entry-level generics dirt cheap. Since Amazon’s business is about content, going low makes the most sense for them. They need volume more than they need margin.

      At this point I doubt they’ll get back into phones unless and until something changes on the communications side. Now, if Amazon buys Sprint… 😉

  6. I can’t imagine doing most of my computing on a tablet. I picked up an iPad 2 last year as a special purpose device: presentation of sheet music for performance. It’s been great for that. I can’t think of another compelling use for it, and I do music, photography, and writing re: creativity.

    I’m willing to believe that there may be important apps for sound mixing, etc., but as far as I’m concerned, tablets are content consumption devices. Even my sheet music app is a consumption app, not a creative one.

    Here in rural satellite internet land, cloud computing always takes planning anyway, with an eye to capacity caps.

  7. I go high-end (Macbook Pro) for creating and low-end ($50 Fire) for consuming all but ebooks, which I read on a Voyage. I went with the cheapie Fire because I wanted to see how my habits might change with a tablet on hand, and I didn’t want to spring for anything from the Apple line.

    It’s worked out fine. I mainly use the Fire for listening to streaming music, moving it to whichever room I’m in and hooking it up to the speakers there. Works great, but for that kind of limited use, I’m really glad I didn’t lay out the money for the iPad.

  8. Reality Observer

    Looking at the comments – think of the car industry.

    There is a market for Jaguars, Lincolns, Porsches, etc.

    The majority of the market is for low and mid-priced vehicles.

    The target for a few content providers can certainly be the very expensive Apple products. Only a few, and their prices will be high to match. They’ll make a profit, certainly.

    For the rest of the large content provider community – we’d better be able to provide usable content for the Kindle and other “cheap” tablets.

    Even the cheapest fire is between 15 and 20 times the cost of a single piece of content. (Yes, that’s at indie prices, or single episodes of a series, or a typical older movie. Still at least 2 to 3 times the cost of a trad-pub piece, or recent movie.)

    The majority needs to aim at the large market that has devices costing between $50 and $150, with $200 as about the top of their target. Not the (relatively) small number with $600 and up iPads.

    Of course, that is if you want a good chance to make money. If you’re just in it for the “ahtistry” – go for it.

    • That’s good thinking if you assume that you’re aiming at a stationary target.

      The reality is that this year’s $600 iPad will be 2018’s entry-level Amazon or Samsung tablet. If you’re designing for forward compatibility, you want to make sure your content is up to snuff on today’s top-end hardware. If you only care about moving product for a short time and don’t mind what happens two years from now – why, aim at today’s $50 tablet; be my guest.

      • But the problem in tablet-land in general, and iPad-land, specifically, is that content consumption works fine on 2012-level hardware. iPad 2, and original iPad Mini levels. And Apple was still selling those barely a year ago. They’ll still be supporting them two years from now.

        Cook pointed that out a year or so ago: the upgrade rate is much lower than they expected. The same is happening to (non-Apple) phones: year to year incremental improvements aren’t driving upgrades. Instead, it is hardware failure that is the biggest driver and since tablets are little more than a display with some solid state electronics and a battery the hardware lifecycle will be closer to the TV and computer monitor life cycle than that of high end PCs.

        Forward conpatibility isn’t much of an issue these days even on mainstream PCs. Gaming PCs need upgrading pretty much yearly but monitors and TVs can last a decade or more and they keep on working about as well in their last days as they did new. Mainstream PCs run somewhere in the middle, 4-6 year life cycles, minimum. Stories of 10 year old PCs still serving productively are hardly rare.

        There will always be gadgeteers and high-end users who benefit from incremental upgrades but for most tablet users what worked 4 years ago works fine today. And what cost $400 4 years ago now runs $50.

        A lot of people are buying those $50 tablets as their entry into tablet-based consumption and finding little need to go higher. Others do but they are a minority and the competition for “step-up” tablet computers is getting cutthroat.

        It’s turning out to be a tough business.

    • Of course, that is if you want a good chance to make money. If you’re just in it for the “ahtistry” – go for it.

      You imply that those two are mutually exclusive, but doesn’t that contradict what you’re saying? You open by alluding to the auto industry — there is a market for Jaguars and Porches etc. And you’re correct that the majority of the market is for lower and mid-priced vehicles.

      But Jaguar still makes pretty good money, doesn’t it?

      And those cars may be partly about “ahtistry,” perhaps, but I don’t thinks it’s a “just” thing. BMWs are relatively expensive, but they’re marketed as the “ultimate driving experience” and sell fairly well. With good resale value — which is an interesting point of differentiation for Apple. Felix notes that what cost $400 four years ago now runs $50 — but not when it comes to Apple, who’s known for great resale/secondary market value. Like I said, I’m typing this on a four-year old Retina Macbook Pro. I bought it refurbished at a 20% or 30% discount, but I’m sure I could still get several hundred dollars for it. Old iPhones are known for selling pretty well.

      • Reality Observer

        Little doubt that I muddled that post more than somewhat… A few clarifications.

        Yes, luxury cars (and “luxury” ebooks) do make money. I didn’t mean to imply that they don’t. BUT that market is not easy to break into – it requires significant up-front investment, and building the brand over a significant amount of time.

        Nor did I mean to say that the technology stands still – it certainly does not. BUT it usually does not change as fast as we would like it to (for the majority of consumers), as noted by the large drop-off in hardware upgrade purchases. (It will get there, eventually, sure – but by the time your latest work is easily read by the majority, the “bleeding edge” has moved – and your fabulous work of today is antiquated.)

        You certainly keep an eye on what the majority is capable of right now – “now” meaning at whatever time you are contemplating a new release (or refurbishing an older one). Straight HTML text in Times New Roman is, to put it mildly, not going to make it today. Two dimensional content isn’t going to make it when the majority has three dimensional displays (much less when we have portable holodecks with full tactile sensations…).

        A tiny example – there is a book on my Kindle right now that has some “extra content” – four diagrams in the front of the book. It is from a publisher that “gets” e-pubbing. And it taught me a limitation that apparently every device out there has right now – you cannot lock a single page into landscape (or portrait) orientation. Orientation is an “all or nothing” choice – and even that is at the option of the consumer, not the producer. On the QC checklist right now is that any art in my books obviously HAS to be designed to be right side up in any orientation (which it is not in this book), AND look decent in that orientation. On the “QC watch” list is keeping any eye out for software upgrades that apply to the majority of devices that will allow locking a single page into a particular orientation (or substituting content depending on orientation).

  9. I’m not fully sure I agree with PG here — that is, I agree with him about existing iPad strategy, but I am not sure that the future strategy mentioned here is wrong. (I can’t tell from the article just what it is that moving away from “Air” and toward “pro” actually means.)

    As a content creator who both 1) loves my iPad and 2) doesn’t use it for content creation, I can tell them what they’re doing wrong:

    Content creators need control. If they want me to use my iPad for more than taking notes, then they need to let me have a file system and a card slot, so I can copy files back and forth without having to go through their cloud or mail or docking the dang thing. I shouldn’t need a special account to put anything on or take anything off the danged thing.

    It’s the file system, stupid. It’s designed for content consumers. If they want creators to use it, they need to design something more open and hands on.

    At the same time….

    The only advantage an iPad has over a desktop machine is portability. If they make it bigger it will just be a variation of a laptop. Releasing an ipod touch the size of the large iPhone would be the best move they could make, imho. Small enough to carry in a purse or pocket, large enough to actually use for something, doesn’t require an expensive phone contract.

    I both love and hate my iPad. I suspect they will never change the things I hate, but if they change the things I love, I may well jump to another platform.

    • I dumped my iPad for lack of connectivity also. I got a Surface a few months ago. It’s connectivity is the same as a windows desktop or laptop and the stylus handwriting input works for me with Word. After my iPad disaster, I was skeptical of the future of tablets for the kind of text content creation that I do, but the Surface changed my mind. I don’t think Surface competes directly with iPad, but it has a place with me.

  10. It’s only been a few months since those cheap Fires went out. Give it time for the disappointment to set in. Because nine times out of ten, when the buyer realizes the limitations of their tablet, they end up getting the iDevice anyway. Nowadays people want their devices to do everything for them; if a tablet can’t do that, that means owning and carrying around more than one device. Who wants to do that?

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