The iPad Land Grab

Despite the hype and competition, the Apple iPad tablet remains the undisputed king of tablets and a tremendous opportunity for app entrepreneurs.

Despite all the sales, the breathless reaction amongst the blogosphere, and despite seeing an iPad everywhere, it seems, I think that for app developers the iPad opportunity can hardly be overstated. The numbers are so large, the potential so great, that it becomes difficult to not be encouraging. The iPad is on the cusp of becoming the new PC and today’s app developers are tomorrow’s software titans or media conglomerates. This is not simply – or at least not only – hyperbole.  When examining Apple’s iPad (and iTunes) numbers, the potential for apps, app developers, and app monetization is simply astounding.

On it’s quarterly earnings call last month, Apple further entice app developers:

  • Over 40 billion apps downloaded – with nearly 20 billion downloaded in 2012 alone
  • 500 million + active user accounts – with payment information on file, ready to download apps and other media
  • 775,000 apps on the App Store, with over 300,000 native to the iPad (and iPad Mini)
  • Apple’s App Store (and iTunes) are available in 155 countries

The iPad growth is similarly remarkable. In its latest report, market research firm Canalys noted that in Q4 2012, the iPad alone accounted for one in six of every PC shipped worldwide. Moreover, iPad sales are growing at a far faster level than traditional PCs. The insatiable demand for iPad Mini is largely responsible.

“Canalys estimates that the mini made up over half of Apple’s total pad shipments, with its attractive price point and compact design leading to significant cannibalization in the iPad range and wider PC market. Its success proves there is a clear demand for pads with smaller screens at a more affordable price.”

A Trail of Tears: iPad Competitors

  • Microsoft Surface RT

    Microsoft’s Surface tablet released to great expectation in September 2012, however sales thus far have been lackluster as users are turned off by the strange flavor of Windows which it runs and the lack of apps available for the Windows 8 platform.

  • Samsung Galaxy Tab

    Samsung’s Galaxy Tab has fared the best of all the iPad’s competitors, however user engagement and monetization of apps remains a challenge on the Android platform.

  • RIM BlackBerry Playbook

    RIM released its BlackBerry Playbook tablet in April 2011 to tepid reviews and general disinterest by the market. The Playbook was criticized for its lack of native email and calendar support.

  • HP TouchPad

    HP released its TouchPad tablet in July 2011 and discontinued sale of the machines in August 2011. The lack of apps for the WebOS platform and an underwhelming advertising campaign are blamed for the massive flop.

While other tablets are experiencing growth, including the Kindle and the Samsung Galaxy Tab, their numbers pale in comparison to iPad’s. The iPad numbers are not solely focused on quantity, however. User engagement, purchases, app downloads, ad click-throughs, browsing and nearly every statistic of interest to app developers favors the iPad.

iOS apps tend to experience greater download numbers, stickiness and greater monetization than Android apps, for example. Last month, on the occasion of the 40 billionth app download, Apple SVP Eddy Cue stated:

“Apple offers developers a wealth of resources and tools to help them make great apps, plus a robust ecosystem and marketplace which provide customers a safe and easy way to discover them. Apple also provides developers great ways to monetize apps including in-app purchase, subscriptions and advertising, and helps market and support developer efforts in the App Store and beyond. “

Monetization is obviously a key element for app developers to consider. This recent survey of click-through rates and eCPMs for iOS and Android apps sheds more light. Despite vastly more Android users than iOS users, Apple dominates even on the advertising front. While the numbers do not breakdown click-through rates between iPhone and iPad, for example, other data suggest that iPad users are highly engaged with their apps and content.

iPad sales and the eager embrace of iPads and apps by consumers are a tremendous opportunity. But it is also an opportunity for innovative app developers. iPads are rapidly invading not only the home, but multiple industries, job types, use cases and needs. We are now seeing iPads in schools, in healthcare settings, used by distribution facilities, for sales displays and more.  This creates a wealth of opportunities for all manner of app developers, regardless of specialty or interest. iOS app downloads are now at about 65 million per day. This is astounding. There is likely an eager buyer for your app no matter the field or area of interest.  In restaurants and retail, at the doctor’s office, wherever there are salesmen, in more and more areas of work, play, leisure, shopping and much more, iPads are invading that space – and with them, apps galore. Yes, there is a lot of hype about the “app economy”. But that should not mislead you into thinking it’s all hype. The iPad may indeed represent a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Do not shy away from taking your app idea to reality.

About Brian Hall

Brian S Hall writes about technology, immortality and food for ReadWrite, Techpinions, Unwired View and other publications. His thoughts on the 'smartphone wars' and how these are rapidly de-constructing markets, industries, business models and relationships around the world can be found on his personal site at

  • Jean-Louis Gassée

    Right! Now, let’s see if MS blinks and finally releases an Office suite for the iPad. We hear they balk at the 30% App Store toll. What do they give to Ingram Micro and other distributors for the Windows Office DVD?

    • Brian S Hall

      Fear. Pride. Hubris. Profits. Reality. Which will it be Microsoft?

    • Space Gorilla

      I think they have to, and fairly soon. I was reading some comments on another thread about spreadsheets on tablets, how you can’t do that kind of work on an iPad. I say that’s nonsense. I watch my kids use their iPads, doing all sorts of complex tasks, editing movies, creating animation, illustrating, writing, recording music, retouching photos, and on and on. And some of this they do while walking around with their iPads. Their fingers dance around the screen, it’s like some kind of magic how fast and accurately they work with apps. Manipulating spreadsheets will be *trivial* for this new touch generation.

      • bobby gill

        I agree spreadsheets can definitely be done on the tablet, the question is can Microsoft adapt their model of a spreadsheet to what a touch enabled spreadsheet would need to be? I think Microsoft might be too invested in the current way Excel looks and works to invest in a conceptual rethink of the spreadsheet that might be needed for the iPad. My own experience having worked there is that it probably won’t, the incentive is to keep milking the Office cash cow for all its worth right now, not necessarily positioning it to thrive for the touch generation.

  • mhikl

    The page keeps jumping around. Can’t even focus and think so can’t be bothered to complete the article.