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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”.

Hello Hol­ly­wood

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.

Tablet pre­scrip­tion

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?”

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