I think there are 2 issues:
1- the device’s very format limits it to simple tasks, and you don’t need frequent hardware updates for that. I have a 2012 Galaxy Note 10.1, and can’t find a reason to upgrade it. Well, h.265 maybe… other than that it does the Web/Messaging/Social/News/Games/Media stuff I got it for just as well as on day one. Well, I don’t do demanding games, my nephews would disagree on that point I think ^^
Also the camera, one of the fastest-improving parts of premium phones, and a key purchase motivator, is irrelevant.
The current record-holder is my brother-in-law, who’s on a cyanogenmod’ed HP TouchPad, and won’t let me offer him an upgrade. Ditto: he’s happy with it for what little he uses it for.
2- it’s not as much of a social marker as a phone is, so there’ no social pressure to upgrade — though my brother reported an early wave of mis-/under-used iPad Pros in top management. Tablets don’t get out much.
Both issues explain lower sales. The devices are not unused failures like most fitness trackers (50+% unused after a few weeks). There’s just no reason to upgrade.
I’d draw a parallel with netbooks:
- before tablets arrived: most everyone had one, for very specific and limited tasks (stay online, light Office, the basic web/social/messaging/news/games package). No need to ever upgrade for those tasks, actually most netbooks around me still see some use, at 10 years old. My sister was in a panic last year when she couldn’t find hers when going on holidays.
- when tablets arrived, they could mostly do all of that in a more practical format, plus Media a lot better, so they killed the category. I’m wondering if convertibles and 2-in-1s will do that for tablets, especially at the high end.
- MS and Intel killed the category for fear of cannibalization and lack of revenues/margins. Tablets are rather simpler hardware, sold for more than netbooks, and Apple gets a much higher share of the revenue (in-house SoCs), so that’s not applicable here.