As the iPad turns four, the tablet faces an existential crisis

As the iPad turns four, the tablet faces an existential crisis

ON MAY 9, 2014

Last month, the iPad turned four-years old. Throughout the device’s short lifespan, Apple has remained the king of the tablet market. As evidence, consider that 77 percent of all web traffic on tablets comes from iPads. This is a dominant position for Apple to find itself in, given that Googleonly has 67 percent of the desktop search market.

However, like all birthdays can, this latest one for the iPad has prompted an existential crisis. What is a tablet good for? Why do we want it?

New research from Flurry today tracks the usage patters of 100,000 iPad users, shedding some light on the above quandaries. The report, fore example, found that gaming and entertainment use peaks for iPad users of all ages at between 5pm and 8pm, before trailing off sharply after that.

Yes, the iPad is an evening time entertainment tool, but it isn’t used simply like a TV. Two-thirds of all the TV we watch is between 7 p.m. and 11 p.m. Only a third of our iPad use falls in between those hours. And Flurry found that we were all using our iPads for entertainment throughout the day too, meaning the drop off wasn’t as sharp as expected in daylight hours.

Outside of use as a media player, things became more confused, Flurry finds. Teens and college students are using their iPads as PC replacements, with four peaks throughout the day for productivity and utility apps: early in the morning, mid-afternoon, around 9 p.m. and in the wee hours of the morning. This likely translates to, in bed, in front of the TV, home from class. Working adults, on the other hand, don’t use these apps throughout the day at all. It remains to be seen whether new software suites like Microsoft Office for iPad can drag people off their computers to do real  work on tablets, but for now, the evidence indicates this is not the case.

Our iPads are just around. They’re with us, and kind of nifty, but seem to hover awkwardly in the space between smartphone and desktop computer. I finally invested in one myself at the end of 2013 with the release of the iPad Air and it took me months to relax into the fact that I probably didn’t actually need it. I find it good mostly for sending emails and reading news in bed, sneaking an episode of TV in while I eat and watching movies on planes. I like it, but I probably wouldn’t miss it, were it gone, and I’m not sure I’ll buy another.

It has been forecast loudly and often that the iPad (and tablets in general) will vanquish desktop computing. But this prediction has been too premature and may prove to be off base entirely. People aren’t reupping on the iPad as frequently they are smartphones. As Benedict Evans outlined at the end of April, iPad sales are sluggish and have started to taper away ever so slightly. After the usual spike in sales with the release of the iPad Air, Apple saw a bigger than usual drop off in sales. Comparatively, revenue and sales from the iPhone are still trending upwards.

The market for computers has fallen away with the demand for tablets. Smartphones remain the true and undeniable market market force, with global sales exploding and no roof in sight. An iPad is a good toy, but unless it can establish a much broader case for itself beyond reading the news or delivering entertainment on the go, its best days might be behind it (and at such a young age too).

Our smartphones are getting bigger, better, and faster. More importantly they’re with us always. An iPad you have to walk over to pick up, which in these lazy modern times is more of an obstacle than you’d think.


About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (, the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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