Tablet takedown: are they getting too hard to swallow for tech buyers?

It has been a fairly bad week for the tablet world

It's been a busy, although not entirely positive, week for tablet news.

Apple reported disappointing sales of its iPad, Microsoft revealed it had abandoned plans to sell the Surface Mini, but on the plus side Nvidia has decided to tablet-ise its Shield gaming system.

So where next for tablets? Has the sci-fi buzz of living in a touchscreen world worn off? Are people longing for the days of keyboards, when typing an error-free status update wasn't such a nightmare of wrong predictions and corrections?

Or is it because the world's realised that you don't need to spend a lot of money on something you idly look at during advert breaks?

Everything is awesome

Beneath a Guardian piece on the decline of iPad sales, which it described as a "slump," reader Seoulite says it's Apple's own fault for making the tablet so solid, writing: "The iPad sales fall is a problem partly of Apple's own making. Apple have long pushed the mantra that specs are only part of the package. Indeed Tim Cook himself said 'specs are no substitute for a great experience.'"

Seoulite continued: "Therein lies the problem, on face value it's hard to disagree with the sentiment but it's a crazy thing to say when a significant part of your business is based on people upgrading every year or two."


People are hanging onto their old iPads with the mantra 'if it 'ain't broke I don't need another'

Reader Patrician spelled out the same though more clearly, saying: "So basically everyone who has one realises that they're OK for what they are and that's there's no real need to upgrade, thus sales plummet? Well that's a shocker. Really."

Which is fair enough, but that as-good-as-it-gets philosophy doesn't stop people craving new phones every eight months or so and binning/eBay-ing/sock-drawering perfectly serviceable models. So why is the tablet world different?

Big bad tablet

The non-stop rise of the larger phone is one of the reasons Gizmodo commenter Ovy put forward to explain the tablet malaise, who said of the Surface Mini's cancellation: "Makes sense to me. Even the iPad is taking a hit in sales, with phablets moving in on the tablet market. Surface is already working hard to carve out its own market niche, and the Nexus 7 has already cashed in on the novelty of a 7-inch tablet just about two years ago now. There's no room for a mini."

Dr Nemmo says the end of Surface Mini is symptomatic of larger issues at Microsoft, commenting: "Microsoft has some sort of suicidal problem since its best ideas, like the Surface Mini or the Courier, get shelved almost instantly."

Plus there was the odd case of the Nokia X Android phones that only lasted a couple of months before getting the chop. There are commitment issues of some sort within Microsoft.

DefinitelyDave has a good point about Microsoft's mixed marketing messages regarding Surface Mini, pointing out that: "It's a tough sell... Surface has been sold as a tablet which can do real work; both the pro and RT, to differing levels. I don't think you can expect a positive reaction combining the terms 'work' or 'MS Office' with '7-inch screen'."

Is it because I is not lime green?

On the Huffington Post, the usual Android/Apple fan fights were being acted out, this time by people signed in with grown-up-looking Facebook accounts who you'd think would have better things to do with their days.

In response to a comment that iPads are simply "too good" and don't require replacing, reader Alison Demzon outlined her Android Nightmare, saying: "I got a cheap as hell Android phone recently myself. It crashes constantly, things don't run quite right, and once a day it locks up so that I have to pull the battery to reset it. Only thing I honestly expect it to do though is make calls and send messages. For everything that I want really done I have my first generation iPad that I accidentally dropped from the second floor once even and still runs better than this super cheap Android."

The thread soon turned into a competition to see who had the longest lasting piece of Apple technology and the crappiest Android model, with plenty of current users of the first-gen iPad popping up to boast about owning outdated technology.

The weirdness of such hardware fanatics was summarised neatly by reader Richard Hernandez, who posted simply: "I still use my 3 year old iPad. Samsung sucks."

You wouldn't know, though, Rich, if you've only used an iPad.

Samsung vs apple

You should always compare tablets before you make a judgement

Meanwhile, Market Watch reader Steven Watkins has had it with unfair comparisons of iPads and cheaper, smaller Android models, venting: "The people on here talking about how much better an Apple tablet/phone is over a cheap Android from China reminds me of how people compare how much better a driving experience they had once they switched from a KIA to a Bentley."

iPads are made in China too, Steve, just FYI.

Jeff Breitner has an idea how Apple can resurrect the iPad, though, suggesting: "They just need to do what they did with the iPod and start making them in different colours. Because people will think their old one is outdated if their colour isn't new any more."

Coloured backs are already growing popular in phones, with Nokia leading the charge with phones like the Lumia 930, and Apple has already tried it on its iPhone 5C range, so it's not a terrible idea. Let's just hope Nokia doesn't tease Apple over Twitter again.

  • Maybe Apple's plans for the iPad Air 2 will increase sales?