iPad Air 2 Screen
Apple's iPad hit its lowest sales level for three years, but despite the naysayers, there is still life in the world's most popular tabletIBTimes UK

Think back just 18 months ago. Everyone was declaring that the iPhone was dead in the water.

Apple's 4in smartphone was seen as dated and tiny compared to the 5in+ Android phones dominating the market. Apple under Tim Cook was seen as a company devoid of innovation and on the wane.

Fast forward to Apple's latest earning results on Monday (27 April) and with the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, Apple is once again the king of the smartphone market, selling a remarkable 135.7 million iPhones in the last six months.

While the iPhone has soared, Apple's tablet has taken a back seat, and in the first three months of 2015 the company recorded its lowest iPad sales since the same three-month period in 2012 with "just" 12.6 million units sold.

Add to this the fact that sales from its Mac desktop and laptops brought in more revenue than the iPad for the first time in a long time, and we have had some pretty strong opinions expressed about the fate of the iPad.

"The iPad is dead, long live the PC"

"The iPad is dead, long live the PC" is the general gist of a lot of the analysis following the results, but with a little perspective and a quick look at Apple's recent history suggest that the tablet that defined the market is far from near its end.

First, just think about that figure of 12.6 million for a second. No other manufacturer comes even close to selling that number of tablets. In the first three months of 2015, the iPad alone was a $5.4bn (£3.5bn) business for Apple.

Sure Android tablets dominate the market, but the vast majority of these are budget tablets which are typically used a lot less than Apple's tablet. The reason for this is the wealth of tablet-optimised apps available for Apple's device compared to those on the Google Play Store.

Not even on the same planet

This means that while people may be buying iPads at a slower rate, they are continuing to use them, meaning Apple is generating revenue through the App Store, unlike those manufacturing Android tablets.

Apple CEO Tim Cook said on Monday that usage rates were so far above the competition, they were "not even on the same planet".

Aside from competition from Android tablets, the other factor which is taking sales from the iPad are Apple's own products. Tim Cook confirmed that Apple was seeing "cannibalisation of the iPad" by the iPhone and Mac, and while this may be bad for the iPad, it's not bad for Apple.

In January Apple CEO Tim Cook flagged up that the iPad was going through a dip saying: "To be clear with everyone, I'm not projecting something very different next quarter or the next. I'm thinking over the long run."

Playing the long game

And it's that long run that you need to focus on. Of all the things you can accuse Apple of, being a stupid company is not one. It is acutely aware of the current state of iPad sales and has been long before people were declaring the death of its tablet.

On the surface Apple has not paid any attention to its tablet line in the last two years. The incremental updates announced in October didn't shift the dial in terms of sales, but we have been here before.

Remember when the iPhone was written off. That is where we are at with the iPad.

Apple is (in my opinion) working on something big for the iPad. It has long been thought to be working on a product dubbed the iPad Pro which will feature a larger screen (possibly 12in) as well as a Bluetooth keyboard and possibly a stylus.

The product would be aimed at enterprise, an area Tim Cook referenced in his comments on the iPad in Monday's earnings call with analysts. "[The] iPad can be a major player in enterprise."

Apple has already partnered with IBM to leverage the latter's deep roots in enterprise to help sell to that huge market but Cook says this partnership is still "in its early stages".

Cook also dismissed the argument that the tablet market is saturated, saying first time buyer rates it is seeing (40% in US and 70% in China) is not what is seen in a saturated market.

Apple has sold almost 60 million iPads in the last six months bringing in revenue of over $25bn. That is a pretty remarkable achievement for a product that is doomed.