Apple Quietly Acknowledges the iPad’s Staggering Decline

March 21, 2017, 3:56 PM UTC

Apple’s iPad announcement on Tuesday had an underlying, unmistakable message: the iPad has lost its way.

The tech giant on Tuesday announced a new iPad featuring a 9.7-inch Retina display, improved components, and a $329 price tag. The company also announced that it boosted the iPad Mini 4’s storage to 128GB. In a statement, Apple put on a brave face, saying that the iPad has a “stunning” screen and will deliver “incredible performance.” But it did little to mask the iPad’s ever-present and concerning decline.

There was a time not long ago that Apple (AAPL) would have held a special press event focused solely on new iPad models. The company would have shared staggering statistics showcasing its tablet’s success, and would have happily stood on the stage holding its latest invention for the world to see.

Now, though, Apple’s iPad announcement has been relegated to a press release and a quiet update to its online store. And all this for what Apple said on Tuesday is its most popular iPad version and “the world’s most popular tablet.”

But popularity is a relative term.

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In Apple’s 2014 first fiscal quarter, a three-month period ended Dec. 28, 2013, the company sold more than 26 million iPads and generated $11.5 billion in sales. Apple’s iPad business was about one-third the size of its iPhone unit, but nearly twice the size of its Mac division and nearly three times the size of its Services business.

During Apple’s last-reported fiscal first quarter ended Dec. 31, 2016, the company sold 13.1 million iPads and generated $5.5 billion in revenue. The iPhone division is now 10 times bigger than Apple’s iPad unit, and Mac and Services business lines are now generating more revenue each quarter than its tablet business.

In just three years, Apple’s iPad business has been halved—and there is no end in sight to the bloodletting.

Meanwhile, the broader tablet market appears to be in free fall. During the fourth quarter of 2016, 52.9 million tablet units shipped worldwide, a figure that was down 20.1% compared to the same period in 2015, according to research firm IDC. Apple was the tablet market’s leader, but its shipments were down by 18.8%—more than any other company in the top five.

It gets worse.

In a statement in February,Ryan Reith, an analyst and program vice president for IDC’s Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Device Trackers unit, said that “the tablet market continues to grow stale,” and “typical tablets” that don’t come with a dedicated keyboard like the iPad “are continuing to lose relevancy.” An increasing number of customers, Reith continued, are seeking two-in-one hybrid devices that can be used as notebooks or tablets and come with a touchscreen.

Given Apple’s iPad performance and broader market challenges, it becomes clearer why Apple didn’t decide to hold a big iPad event like it would have several years ago. The company simply had no good news to share.

Of course, iPad troubles are nothing new, and Apple CEO Tim Cook has been fielding questions from concerned analysts for years. In 2015, Cook was pressed on his company’s troubling iPad sales. Cook told analysts that he’s “still bullish on iPad” and believes there’s “a lot of runway” for the product.

Two years later, that runway seems shorter. The iPad hasn’t reversed its fortunes and Apple has largely ignored it, focusing instead on its iPhone and other divisions. Even the new iPad announced on Tuesday delivers only minor internal changes; the design hasn’t changed.

Some Apple supporters might say that the iPad announcement on Tuesday is just the beginning. They might point to recent rumors, suggesting Apple is planning a more notable update to its iPad Pro line that could include a new 10.5-inch iPad. Apple could showcase those devices at a press event in April, according to reports.

While that certainly could happen—the notoriously secretive Apple isn’t saying anything about its future plans—why would it break apart its iPad announcements? Is Apple trying to get these minor updates out of the way to make room for something bigger down the road?

It’s impossible to say. Like anything else in Apple’s universe, questions abound. But if anything is certain, it’s that the iPad business is in a dangerous state of decline. And all signs right now point to Apple needing to do something big to reverse its course.

The problem, though, is it might already be too late.

Apple did not respond to a Fortune request for comment.

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