Skip to main content

Apple’s iPad business at-a-glance as CEO Tim Cook plots breaking out of “speedbump” slump


Tim Cook hinted at significant developments to the iPad line in describing the recent 16 percent drop in year-on-year sales yesterday as “a speedbump” in an interview with Re/code.

“We couldn’t be happier with how we’ve done with the first four years of the iPad. I’d call what’s going on recently a speed bump, and I’ve seen that in every category” …

He made that same comment before during the last earnings call and obviously that’s not the whole story…

Re/code pointed to the above Slate chart, which provides some perspective on the scale of Apple’s iPad business. Yes, sales have taken a hit, but the product still generates more revenue than Yahoo, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter. Groupon and Tesla combined.

The challenge Cook faces is, as we argued back in April, that the iPad upgrade cycle appears to be closer to that of PCs than smartphones. People only upgrade their iPad when given a good reason to. If Apple is to grow iPad sales, it needs to provide that reason.

Cook isn’t stupid: he understands that. If the new iPads in the works were going to offer only incremental change, he’d fall flat on his face with this prediction.

Marketing may provide part of the answer. Cook has said in the past that he sees great opportunity for the iPad in education, with 13M iPads already in use in education worldwide. The partnership with IBM is also likely to significantly boost enterprise sales. But for sustained growth, consumer sales are vital, and consumers only upgrade when offered something new and interesting.

There has so far been little in the way of leaks suggesting what that might be. Touch ID is a no-brainer, and anyone who has experienced its convenience on the iPhone 5s is going to be tempted to enjoy the same benefit on their iPad, but is certainly not enough on its own.


Bloomberg yesterday reported that the long-rumored larger iPad is on the way, predicting a 12.9-inch model in the first quarter next year. It’ll be interested to see how this fares, but my guess is that it will be something of a niche model, akin to the MacBook Pro 17 in the days when that was part of the line-up: very popular with a small segment of the market but not a mainstream choice.

It’s possible that the split-screen functionality we revealed in May and showed crudely demonstrated in June might be limited to new models. If so, that definitely increases the productivity of the device, and is likely to be particularly popular in the enterprise market and could fuel a buying spree

When the original iPhone wasn’t selling so hot, Apple dropped the prices and fired up subsidies so perhaps that’s an area Apple could make some moves with the iPad as well.

Then there are colors. The iPad 5c?

Perhaps there will be no one killer feature, and it’ll be a mix of enhancements that add up to sufficient reason to upgrade. But if the slow-down is to truly be nothing more than a speedbump, Apple will face that same challenge a year from now, and the year after that. If the company truly can rise to it, it’s going to be an interesting ride.

FTC: We use income earning auto affiliate links. More.

You’re reading 9to5Mac — experts who break news about Apple and its surrounding ecosystem, day after day. Be sure to check out our homepage for all the latest news, and follow 9to5Mac on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to stay in the loop. Don’t know where to start? Check out our exclusive stories, reviews, how-tos, and subscribe to our YouTube channel


  1. herb02135go - 9 years ago

    I can use a split screen on my S5 and samsung tablet. It’s a handy feature.

    • flaviosuave - 9 years ago

      I can only imagine your daily schedule:

      8 a.m. Get up, make coffee.

      9 a.m. Spend what precious little time you have on this earth trolling Apple sites despite not using any of their products.

      10 a.m. Stare out the window as you contemplate the meaninglessness of your existence.

      11 a.m. Briefly regret wasting your time trolling.

      11:15 a.m. Cry into your now-cold coffee because your mother never gave you enough attention as a child.



      • whatyoutalkingboutwillis - 9 years ago

        He may have not been trying to bash Apple, but instead give his opinion on the usefulness of having split screen access.

      • flaviosuave - 9 years ago

        whatyoutalkingboutwillis: Without any additional context that might appear to be the case, but this guy shows up with a negative/trolling comment on nearly every post on this site.

  2. Not good comparisons. Aside from Tesla, those are all “Tech”/”Social Media” startups that make little if any money. Let’s compare instead, along with Tesla, to Corvette, Braun, BOSE, Logitech, Playstation & Xbox. You know, people who sell hardware.

  3. Wayne Caswell - 9 years ago

    One sure way to notice when a product category is becoming a commodity is when you see differentiation based on size, color and incremental features. There’s nothing disruptive in that.

  4. alvinguzman - 9 years ago

    Interesting…and what is exactly expecting from this product. It looks to me that is behaving like a PC product and people are keeping it longer. The Ipad 2 is still in used in my household as our portable TV and I see no reason to upgrade and it continues to be upgrade…hell it will be getting IOS 8

  5. Mr. Grey (@mister_grey) - 9 years ago

    I’m not sure that there is anything sensible about the constant suggestion from tech pundits that iOS might have split screen capabilities on “pro” iOS devices, but not on others.

    The idea flies in the face of reason, has no real advantage, will undoubtedly make more people angry than it will make people happy, and is quite opposite to everything Apple typically does.

  6. Neil Anderson - 9 years ago

    I sat on my iPad and now it’s a split screen.

    • Troy - 9 years ago

      Well played, but we’re hoping for a split screen that ADDS functionality, not destorys it. Lol

  7. vkd108 - 9 years ago

    The Enterprise and Educational markets are more sustainable with greater long-term prospects to the Consumer market, and free from the myriad problems associated with same indicated in your article above.

    • Ben Lovejoy - 9 years ago

      The problem with the education market is even longer upgrade cycles than consumers. But there’s certainly a lot of untapped potential to keep the market growing for a while.


Avatar for Ben Lovejoy Ben Lovejoy

Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!

Ben Lovejoy's favorite gear