The big news today, a day after Apple’s quarterly results, is that iPad sales were flat in year-on-year terms: 14.1 million iPads were sold this quarter, compared to 14 million in the year-ago quarter.
Looking at the figures this way makes a lot of sense for Wall Street, as the primary interest there is the trajectory of Apple’s financials.
But for us in digital publishing, it makes sense to look at these numbers differently. After all, we’re not that interested in Apple’s financials per se. We care about the iPad as a platform for our businesses.
As a platform, iPad keeps growing at a tremendous pace. In just three months, the cumulative number of iPads sold grew 9%. Over the past year, the platform grew a whopping 72%.
In other words, a year ago Apple had sold under 99 million iPads. Today that figure is over 170 million. The platform is now 72% bigger than just 12 months ago.
This is a huge deal for publishers. Compared to the situation just one year ago, the economics of publishing on iPad are now completely different.
But wasn’t the story that the iPad is losing market share? That’s true only if we see the market as including low-end Android tablets. But Benedict Evans makes a compelling case that it doesn’t, not really: low-end tablets form a separate market, with different vendors, selling to a different audience that uses their tablets for totally different things.
Publishers’ experiences support this view. Every publisher of paid tablet content I’ve talked to says that iPad represents over 90% of their tablet business. For them, the low end Android tablets might as well not exist. Their impact has been zero.
Every data point we have points to the same conclusion: iPad is still the market—essentially the whole market—for tablet publishers. Many publishers would have hoped for more vendor diversity by now. That has not happened, not yet anyway.
But perhaps the addressable market going from 99 million to 170 million iPads in the span of a year makes for some small consolation.