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pple’s iPad shipped five years ago this April, instantly defining a new computing genre when it did. “Is there room for a third category of device in the middle? Something that’s between a laptop and a smartphone?” asked Apple’s co-founder, Steve Jobs, when launching it. “iPad creates and defines an entirely new category of devices that will connect users with their apps and content in a much more intimate, intuitive and fun way than ever before”, he said.
Apple began iPad development in the early noughties, Jobs said at the D8 conference in 2010. “I actually started on the tablet first. I had this idea of being able to get rid of the keyboard, type on a multi-touch glass display,” he said. Development went so well Jobs said. “I thought,
Amy God, we could build a phone out of this. And I put the tablet project on the shelf, because the phone was more important. And we took the next several years and did the iPhone”.
Five years later and there have been six 9.7-inch iPads and three smaller, 7.9-inch iPads. During February’s Oscars ceremony, Apple screened an ad filmed entirely on an iPad with a voiceover from Martin Scorsese. The iPad is getting into new industries, including enterprise markets. It is unlikely Apple would have accomplished this with a netbook – “they aren’t better at anything”, said Jobs at the iPad’s launch.
Speaking in October, company CEO Tim Cook said Apple has sold 225 million iPads since the product’s launch, and while Android-powered tablets are scooping some sales, they barely score a blip on usage metrics, suggesting competitors lack visceral consumer appeal. The active iPad user base is a boon for developers, who have created over 675,000 iPad-specific apps.
Not everyone understood the iPad on launch. “It’s a nice reader but there’s nothing on the iPad I look at and say, ‘Oh, I wish Microsoft had done it’,” said Microsoft founder, Bill Gates. Bill didn’t get it. Apple’s alliance with IBM shows iPad is a perfect mobile client for enterprise applications, and creative users were quick to use them in their work. “On the iPhone I tended to draw with my thumb”, said UK artist David Hockney. “Whereas the moment I got to the iPad, I found myself using every finger”.
“I believe this beautiful new touchscreen device from Apple has the potential to change portable computing profoundly, and to challenge the primacy of the laptop”, said Wall Street Journal technology editor Walt Mossberg.
Despite its success, iPad sales shrank 18 percent year-on-year across the 2014 Christmas quarter. This wasn’t just an Apple problem, as tablet sales fell across the board. Gartner analyst Ranjit Atwal attributed the decline in the market to several factors. “One is that the lifetime of tablets is being extended – they are shared out among family members”, he said. He thinks software upgrades extend the usable life of the devices, too.
Apple CEO, Tim Cook, hopes enterprise sales will boost iPad sales, saying, “The real opportunity is to bring mobility into the enterprise and change how people work”.
Apple rumour sites speculate on an April launch for new models, including an 11-inch ‘iPad Pro’, equipped with a faster A9 processor and more memory, as well as an iPad mini 4. Like iPad Air 2, the ‘pro’ iPad is thought to be available in gold and with 2K resolution.
“Is there room for a third category of device in the middle? Something that’s between a laptop and a smartphone?”