Can Apple’s iPad Overcome the Tablet Slump?

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Apple employees sell the new iPad Air at the Apple Store on November 1, 2013

Spencer Platt/ Getty Images

As tablet sales slow and the tech community waits in anticipation for Apple’s upcoming product announcements, the iPhone 6 isn’t the only device being discussed. Analysts, investors, and consumers alike are also interested in the future of Apple’s second biggest product line after the iPhone: the iPad.

As we reported in July, sales of the iPad — Apple’s second biggest product after the iPhone — have declined for two straight quarters, reaching only 13.3 million units in the June quarter. At the time, Apple chief executive Tim Cook was optimistic about the tablet market, and said that the product category is still in its “early days,” with big potential for growth in the future despite the pessimism of analysts and commentators.

In a recent piece on Re/Code, Walt Mossberg noted that many believe the “tablet boom” is over, with Apple, Microsoft, and Samsung all watching sales of its tablets fall or stagnate. But Mossberg is in the opposite camp: he thinks that the iPad still has the potential to prove itself a good option for consumers.

Mossberg isn’t alone; Apple’s Tim Cook told him that, “We couldn’t be happier with how we’ve done with the first four years of the iPad,” and characterized the current slowdown as a smaller problem than some commentators, analysts, and investors seem to believe. “I’d call what’s going on recently a speed bump, and I’ve seen that in every category.”

Similarly, Cook was optimistic in July, when Apple’s iPad sales fell short of expectations, and noted that innovations and partnerships — like Apple’s partnership with IBM — would drive future growth. Cook and others have noted that emerging markets, where most consumers don’t have PCs, businesses, schools, and even governments, all represent growth opportunities for the iPad and the tablet category.

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