Thoughts On The iPad Mini Apple Event
A few days ago Apple announced new Macbook Pro, iMac, Mac Mini, iPad, and iPad Mini. This is one of the biggest Apple event this year.
The launch of the iPad mini is a lot like a deja vu to the iPod mini launch in 2004. Remember what happened? Apple announced 4GB iPod mini at $249, while the regular 15GB iPod was selling for $299. A mere $50 difference. Yet a lot of people bought the iPod mini, it went to be one of the best selling iPods of all time.
Why did this phenomenon happen? Why did people pay for iPod Mini that’s only $50 less than the iPod that has more than twice the storage? Part of this lies on the fact that many people’s need is not as demanding as the geeks. Not that many people have 15GB of music. As for the iPad mini case not many people want to pay for the retina display or the faster chip, simply because they don’t see that much value on those features. Secondly, there’s a bunch of people who just always think any technology is too expensive for them, until it hits a price point. Then everything that’s more expensive after that will not be too expensive anymore. One of the examples of this is when people started buying PCs for every home in the 90s. It was previously a really expensive piece of technology. This is what the iPad mini aims to be, the tablet for everyone.
So why doesn’t Apple compete with Amazon’s Kindle Fire or Google’s Nexus 7 pricing? Felix Salmon from Reuters summarised this nicely:
Apple, famously, has the same pricing philosophy as Louis Vuitton: it sells premium products at premium prices, and it never discounts. That philosophy has made it an aspirational brand worldwide: you don’t see vendors in China selling fake Google Nexus 7s. Sometimes, as with the iPhone and iPad, the world beats a path to the company’s door in any case. Other times, as in the case of wireless routers or external displays, Apple’s products are so much more expensive than the competition that only the rich Apple faithful tend to buy them. But that uncompromising devotion to the fundamental philosophy is what has made Apple such a powerful global brand.
Simply put, they don’t need to. They’re not in the same game. They’re not in the game of race to the bottom. Remember: iPods has never been the cheapest MP3 player, and yet it still retains 70% of the MP3 market share until today. Apple don’t care about the other 30% of the MP3 player users who just wouldn’t buy anything but the cheapest one. iPad mini might just be the product that will let Apple retain the tablet market share for the years ahead.
Some people who just bought third generation iPad were really upset after the announcement. Only 7 months after the launch of the iPad 3, Apple launched the new iPad 41, breaking their 1 year cycle tradition. The third generation iPad is a great device. It still is today. It’s worth thinking about why Apple released a new iPad just 7 months after the launch of iPad 3.
Firstly, the iPad release cycle has never been a great fit for the holiday season. Spring release made the iPad an unlikely holiday present choice for some people. iPods has always been released in the autumn, just before the holiday season. iPhone has usually been released in WWDC in June, but for the past two years it has been moved to the autumn as well. So if they want to move the schedule over to autumn release, it came down to two choices:
- Release a new iPad after 7 months, which is around this time, or
- Release a new iPad after 19 months, which is at autumn 2013.
Had they chosen the second option, iPad 3 would be the longest lived iOS device. The longest lived iOS device so far is iPhone 4 with 16 months lifetime before iPhone 4S was announced. I bet this wasn’t an ideal situation for Apple. After about a year, the iPhone 4 hardware was sorely outdated among competitors. It still sold really well, but who knows how much more iPhone 4S could Apple have sold if it had been announced a few months earlier.
But here’s another thought: what if the iPad is now going to be announced every 6 months? If that was the case, then Apple did not intend to piss of every iPad 3 owners, but they were simply speeding up their hardware development. But I digressed. Apple has never been a company that releases a product that quickly. I’m sure the iPad 3 short lifetime is a very special case.
Hardware wise it’s quite a significant upgrade, but not one that should make iPad 3 owners want one. If A6X’s architecture is similar to the A6 architecture, it should be really fast. The cellular version of iPad 3 was certainly in a weird position that it doesn’t work in quite as many places as iPhone 5’s LTE. In Australia iPad 3 works with Telstra’s HSDPA network, but it certainly isn’t as fast as LTE. Another interesting tidbit is the iPad 4 does not use nano sim, like the iPhone 5 and iPad mini. I have no idea why they didn’t do that, but my guess is they were rushing it a bit. I was hoping that they’d made the iPad even thinner, but perhaps it will happen next time.
The new iMac is so beautiful. It’s so thin. The new Macbook Pro also looks gorgeous. Performance bump for Mac Mini is always welcome. Fusion drive for both Mac Mini and iMac looks like a really interesting combination. Mac Pro is still a sitting duck on a shelf.
One of the things that I notice in the new iMac is that it finally loses the optical drive. This is the second desktop Mac without optical drive, after Mac Mini lost it some time ago. My bet is when the Mac Pro is updated next year, it won’t lose the optical drive. Mac Pro has always been the longest inheritor of the legacy technologies, because some people still need it and some people buy Mac Pro for that very reason. But I might be wrong. Apple seems to be touting the Super Drive when they introduced the iMac,
So there’s only two Macs that ships with an optical drive now: non retina Macbook Pro and Mac Pro. My guess is that Apple keeps the old Macbook Pro around to fill the price gap between Macbook Air and Macbook Pro with retina display. Once the retina display laptops can hit low enough price point, Apple will probably stop selling non retina display Macbook Pros.
Also, now that iMac has been updated, I wonder if Apple is going to release a new Thunderbolt display. The last time Apple updated their display was on September 2011. I wouldn’t imagine them releasing a new one this year, but when they do it will probably adopt some of the iMac’s design.
Now we see why the last iPad was called The New iPad instead of iPad 3. ↩