WildBill's Blogdom

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Hey, Apple. You Just Made an iPad Mini, and Killed My Inner Child.

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So, it’s taken a day or so for things to gel in my head, but I finally have an opinion on the new products Apple released the other day. In case you’ve been living under a rock, Apple released the following products on 10/23:

  • Brand new Retina-equipped 13” MacBook Pro
  • Updated Mac Mini
  • Redesigned, crazy thin iMacs (why? it sits on your desk. Who cares, it’s awessooommeee)
  • iPad mini
  • 4th generation iPad

In all, it’s a crazy reshuffling of the product line, but it’s the last two products on this list that made me twitch uncontrollably for a while. Now that the seizures have mostly subsided, I think I can pick apart their product strategery. Let’s begin with the iPad mini.

First, I have to say that I was wrong when I said I thought Apple wouldn’t release an iPad mini. I still think the Great and Powerful Jobs (may he rest in peace) wouldn’t have fragmented his market like that, but hey, I’m not in the inner circle at Apple, either. Apple released the iPad mini to a bunch of fanfare and hoopla in San Jose, and there was a tremendous fanboygasm from the collective Internet. The iPad mini occupies an odd niche in Apple’s marketing plan – price-wise it’s smack in the iPod Touch’s range ($299-$399), yet it isn’t down at the price range that some of its competitors occupy, like the Kindle Fire ($159 base price). What’s going on here? It seems that Apple is willing to chop some of the iPod Touch’s market to have a tablet that can compete with the Kindle Fire, Nexus 7, and Galaxy Tab 7.0.

This seems like an odd strategy for Apple. Apple rarely cares about what other companies are doing, and has traditionally said “Screw you guys, we’re going to define our own market.” Apple has truly embodied the philosophy of “If you build it, they will come.” That is, until now. It seems that either Apple is acknowledging a hole in their marketing plan for iPad, or that they think their 10” tablet-only strategy wasn’t good enough. Either way, it’s something we don’t see out of Apple often, and certainly something that Steve Jobs would have avoided (or denied) like the plague. Remember, the Almighty Jobs Himself had said The reason we [won’t] make a 7-inch tablet isn t because we don t want to hit [a lower] price point. It s because we think the screen is too small to express the software. As a software driven company, we think about the software strategies first. So apparently 7” is bad while 8” is good. Whatever.

Having said that, the iPad mini looks freaking neat, particularly in the 4G/LTE variant. I’ve got a ScottEVest jacket that I carry my fullsized iPad 3 in, but it’s a little heavy. Having a tablet that’s small enough to disappear in that jacket would be WAY cool. However , while I think the iPad mini looks neat, I’m on the fence about actually owning one. I use the on-screen keyboard of the regular-sized iPad in landscape orientation all the time, and I think the smaller 8” screen of the iPad mini would make that keyboard way too cramped for my tastes. I’m curious to try one, though.

For me, though, the huge surprise of the Apple announcement was the 4th generation iPad. I did not see that one coming, and I don’t think most of the other folks tracking the mobile industry did either. As someone who bought a fully loaded, retina-class, 64GB, Verizon LTE-equipped iPad back in April, I said this on Twitter when they announced this iPad:

What I really meant by it was:


After hyperventilating uncontrollably and choking back tears for about five minutes, I finally got my lizard brain under control and began to really think about what Apple did, and why they did it. Let’s start thinking this out.

First, the new iPad 4 has the new Lightning connector. It’s pretty obvious Apple wants to get all their devices on this connector as fast as possible, and rolling the retina-class iPad with a new version helps achieve that goal. This leaves the legacy products with the dead-ended, end-of-lifed Dock Connector: the iPad2, iPhone 4/4S, and iPods (Classic and Shuffle). Apple can start pushing its own Lightning-enabled accessories immediately, and this gives them leverage over their 3rd party accessory makers to start licensing the Lightning connector and technology. Remember, the Lightning connector is proprietary and “smart” in that it actually has an authentication chip in it. This means the connector MUST be licensed, and not reverse-engineered – and that translates to Mo’ Money for Apple.

Next – and I’m sure this isn’t something Apple takes lightly – until now, the iPad’s not had a good amount of buzz to carry it into the massive holiday buying season. Assuming Apple makes this move a permanent release timeframe for future iPads (Apple’s proven time and again we can’t COUNT on them to do anything) – now Apple has brand new shiny stuff just in time for Xmas. Yep, fresh off the boat from China, new blood diamonds tech gadgets for us greedy capitalist running dog pigs. (I’m not making a value statement here, honest. I’m one of those greedy capitalist running dog pigs, and I fall for Apple’s toys every. single. time. I feel good about buying tech, cause we help elevate China’s GDP and therefore their standard of living, just a little bit. At least that’s what I tell myself when I fall asleep surrounded by softly glowing, pulsing, little electronic gems of lust. Anyway, I digress.) New gadgets hot off the assembly line in time for Xmas means an even more frenzied lust at the checkout counter, which all plays into Tim Cook’s master plan to keep growing Apple’s coffers.

And last, but most certainly NOT least: Apple used this product release as a way to “fire all guns”, then “fire for effect” at the competition. Where Amazon released a couple new tablets, and Google comes out with the Nexus, Apple shows off not only two new tablets – each with their own brand new CPU designed in house – but some crazy designs like the new super thin iMac. It’s literally Apple declaring themselves “cock of the walk” (Just like Bruce Dickinson!) and daring their competitors to do their best to take a shot at them.

I may not be thrilled with the timing of the 4th generation iPad’s release, but in the end, it doesn’t matter what I think. Apple is going to continue to make the products they think they should make, and they’ll release them at the most opportune moment for themselves – NOT for their customers. And the thing is, the customers will buy them anyhow… because we are all addicted to the latest, greatest, fastest hit of opium off the tech gadget bong of Apple. And that’s exactly where Apple wants us, in the end.

Damn, now all of a sudden, my 3rd generation iPad doesn’t look so horribly obsolete.