For nearly three years, Apple’s iPad sales have been falling on a quarterly basis, a disappointing run for a device repeatedly held up as the “future of computing.”
It was no different this past quarter. Apple said it only sold 10.2 million iPads, down from 19% from the year-ago quarter’s 12.62 million in sales.
But iPad sales actually significantly outperformed Wall Street expectations last quarter. And during a call to discuss Apple’s results, CEO Tim Cook sounded optimistic that iPad sales have bottomed out:
We continue to be very optimistic on the iPad business. And as I had said in my remarks, we believe we’re going to have the best compare for iPad revenue this quarter that we have had in quite some time. And so we’ll report back in July on that one.
The Wall Street Journal’s Daisuke Wakabayashi tweeted that Cook suggested to him that iPad revenue is “near a bottom,” but probably won’t rise this upcoming quarter.
Is the enterprise strategy working?
But what’s prompting this change in tone? Apple may finally be seeing its strategy to sell iPads in large numbers to businesses start to bear fruit.
In the past two years, Apple has rebranded its two most expensive iPads as “pro” versions, with business-friendly features like keyboard cases, and signed a deal with IBM to develop business-specific software and sell iPads to corporate customers.
Apple’s even gone so far as to sign a deal with MLB to promote the iPad Pro in big-league dugouts.
Analyst Patrick Moorhead at Moor Insights thinks Cook’s confidence means he expects upcoming commercial demand for the iPad, because consumer demand is “a crap-shoot.”
“If Cook had confidence on an improvement, it would have to be on commercial applications, not consumer. Consumers are extending their replacement times on tablets from 3 to 4 years, maybe even 5 years,” Moorhead wrote in an email to Business Insider. “Therefore forecasting here is difficult.”
Commercial applications for iPads include, for example, the fancy cash registers at artisanal coffee shops and kiosks at hospitals.
According to an IDC estimate released on Thursday, Apple still captures about 26% of the total tablet market. But iPad sales have been shrinking faster than the overall market. If that changes later this year, that probably means there will be a lot more people toting around company-issued iPads.