It's possible everyone who wants to own an iPad already has one.
Apple has sold about 300 million tablets since 2010 or almost the entire population of the U.S. The few hold-outs likely prefer an Android model like the Google Pixel C or the Microsoft Surface tablet. Sales have slowed a bit, however. At the last earnings report, Apple said iPad sales were down 25% year-on-year.
I've been a fan since day one. I use an iPad Pro on a daily basis, although it hasn't quite replaced a laptop for me when I travel. At an upcoming event on March 21, there's a rumor Apple will introduce a 9.7-inch version of the iPad Pro, which means it will likely use the same A9X processor meant for "real" work like word processing and image editing. It might include a stylus and a smart keyboard cover for typing up docs. Maybe it will come in a few new colors.
Yawn. If Apple just announces a smaller version of the 12.9-inch iPad Pro or a new iPad Air, they might as well bring a fork and stick it in the product. It's cooked. Microsoft has encroached on the tablet space with the Surface Pro that keeps popping up at companies both large and small. What I'm hearing from business owners is that they prefer a convertible device that works like a tablet in the hotel room and on the plane yet functions as a real laptop as well.
Apple needs a big win, because I'm also hearing from quite a few people that they support the government's side in the encryption debate. They see the issue as black-and-white: The government has the right to break into the iPhone used by the San Bernardino shooter. It seems as though public sentiment has dipped; Apple is viewed as blocking the investigation. (I happen to see things from both sides.)
How do you solve that one? Here's my view.
1. Double-down even more on security
My guess is that Apple has known about the encryption debate much longer than anyone else. The next iPad will likely introduce a new security feature. My prediction is that it will somehow use the iPhone for authentication. They might use an app that syncs to the iPhone. When you want to login, you are sent a code that you have to confirm. Note that, with this method, it's not just a matter of guessing a password. You'd also have to posses the synced iPhone and be able to confirm the login. (This is what Microsoft Hello does in Windows 10, by the way.)
2. Pump up the "pro" apps
I'm also expecting some big announcements with apps. It's crazy to think that a lack of powerful apps is steering some people away from the iPad, since it has far more quality apps that any other platform. (If you own a Surface Pro, you know the touch apps are not in abundance.) Yet, if you do only bring an iPad on a business trip or to a remote office, a good keyboard won't help. My problem with the iPad Pro is I can't do any real word processing (say, formatting a long document with many graphics and charts) or any real photo editing. On Android, you can use Adobe Lightroom 2 to capture, edit, and share RAW-format images. On iPad version of the app, it's not available. I'm expecting Apple, Microsoft, and Adobe to announce more robust apps.
3. Make dramatic screen improvements
Did you know, if you snap a photo or shoot a video in 4K with an iPhone 6s, you can't view the results on the iPad Pro? The screen only has 2,732 x 2,048 pixels, but the iPhone 6s shoots in 4,032 x 3,024 pixels. That needs to change. I should be able to view the results on an iPad, edit the images and the video, and share the results. That's going to be a major challenge, since 4K video editing tends to run slow even on a normal laptop. The bar is set high. Unless Apple resolves this problem, and if the next iPad is just faster and thinner, the iPad market is going to shrink even more.