If you believe what industry analysts say, the iPad is doomed. There again, if you believe what industry analysts say, I have a bridge to sell you, and I have some terrible, terrible news about Santa Claus.
The doom-mongering was given fresh fodder this week with Apple's earnings call: in contrast to otherwise typically strong results in other areas of the business, iPad sales dropped 13% in the last quarter compared to the previous year. What's more, this was the third quarter in a row of decline in iPad sales.
The reaction to the new iPads has been muted too, which is perfectly understandable. No matter how often I and others say that Apple's biggest strength is in iteration - making incremental improvements in every generation that refine and add power and capabilities to the core concept of a product - it's under huge pressure to dazzle and delight with the new and revolutionary. (People tend to forget that while revolutions sometimes lead to better societies overall, they're almost always bloody awful things to live through.) Still, it's nevertheless true that the iPad mini 3 especially feels like a minor upgrade to its predecessor, leading to more claims that the iPad is a dead end.
But if you think Apple doesn't know what it's doing, you're wrong. If you listened in to the earnings call (and I can't think why you'd be doing anything else at 10pm on a Monday night) you'd have heard Tim Cook talk about his vision for the iPad, and it basically boiled down to this. First, the partnership with IBM means selling more iPads to businesses; second, although it's tempting to infer that the market is saturated, in Apple's top six countries between 50% and 70% of iPads are sold to people who've never owned one before; third, emerging markets are growing; and fourth, yeah, people don't upgrade iPads as often as phones and they sometimes pick Macs or iPhones over iPads - and Apple's fine with that, because they're still buying an Apple product.
That's all very revealing, but the most important thing to say to the iPad doomsayers is this: oh my word, shut up about it. I know this is rich coming from me, when I've written 547 words on the topic for TechRadar, but Lord, I am tired of hearing so much chatter about these big, strategic, business-centric aspects of Apple.
What should matter is not whether the iPad is doomed, nor the turgid inside-baseball analysis of Apple Inc, but whether you like your iPad. Is it good? Does it make you productive? Does it bring you joy - not necessarily in and of itself, but because of the things it lets you do and the people it brings you closer to?
If the answer's yes, that's all you need to know. If the answer's no, then that's OK too, and if you there's a competing product out there that will do those things better, then I wish you the kind of uncomplicated happiness with it that surely eludes industry analysts.
If you don't own an iPad, you shouldn't care if it's doomed or not. If you do own an iPad, you shouldn't care either. Apple's business is none of your concern.