By Harry Keller
Editor, Science Education
Recent news of a drop in iPad sales1 by Apple triggered some thoughts. Reporting that educational sales of iPads are still on the rise prompted more thinking. Then, I found that some of our customers had a very interesting response to our queries about this area.
We deliver our software as HTML5, making updates unnecessary and allowing for the software to run on any platform: iPad, iPhone, Android device, Chromebook, MacBook, MS Surface, Linux desktop, etc. We can readily convert the software to an iOS app and to an Android app. The question we asked is, “Should we?” The answer, at least from schools, was as resounding “No!”
Making predictions is a very risky business, if you care about your credibility. I am going out on a very long limb by making two predictions for the future. Any number of new developments can make these predictions wildly inaccurate or could cement their certainty.
The first prediction is that iPads will continue the decline in sales and eventually level off. There will be some bumps in this path, of course, but the overall process is one of stagnation at best. The article gives some reasons. For example, people are not upgrading their old iPads as quickly as Apple had anticipated. An iPad is not an iPhone and does not engender the mass hysteria with respect to new versions that you see with such a constantly visible status symbol as your cell phone.
Those tablets also don’t have as many preferred uses as many had predicted. Most who can afford an iPad also have a “real” computer that they use for power applications such as word processing. The tablet is mostly used for videos, music, email, texting (when not using the cell phone for that), and so on. In brief, tablets are not supplanting computers in large numbers. Given a computer and a cell phone, with screen size growing apace, the tablet is the “middle child” and is unnecessary to everyday functioning. It’s too large to carry in your pocket and too small for many serious uses.
The above is not to suggest that tablets will vanish, only that they will settle into a niche market until someone radically changes the interface. The touchscreen is magic for young children and some applications. My grandchildren took to them like kids to candy, even at ages 3 and 5. Still, a touchscreen interface can only take you so far. Adding three-finger gestures really doesn’t make it that exciting. The problems lie in two primary areas: screen size and computing power (CPU and memory). The apps for them have been designed to use what’s available. Continue reading