Twice Annual iPad Launch: Good for Apple

| Editorial

Rumors are again swirling that Apple will embark on a twice a year iPad launch. Considering what the competition is up to, that’s beginning to make more and more sense.

A rumor is just a rumor and should be taken with a grain of salt. But if the rumor leads to some considered analysis, then it’s the analysis that’s interesting, not the rumor. So while I don’t claim to have any inside information, I’d like to analyze the above rumor.

Apple got caught with its pants down at Christmas. There was a good-sized hole in Apple’s product line, Amazon discovered it, and used its financial muscle, vast portfolio of products for sale, and the understanding based on its Kindle experience to develop the Kindle Fire. Sure it’s a crappy little device, or so I’ve read, but Apple left a door open, and Amazon drove a truck through it.

What’s Apple to do? Recall that the reason Apple decided to launch the iPad in April was to even out the revenue by quarter. For a long time, it looked like Apple products were just Christmas toys, and that quarter, while it contained embarrassing riches, was also embarrassingly better than the other quarters. It would be good to even out Apple’s revenue and make every quarter a great quarter. And look like a really successful company all year round.

iPad Crystal Ball

The Embarrassing Problem

The problem with that strategy, as Apple found out last holiday season, is that it gives Apple’s competitors nine months, accounting for product lead times, to come up with a holiday product that can successfully compete. Amazon did just that and provided themselves with a winning vehicle to sell their copious wares. Apple hosed up by focusing on revenue by quarter and not anticipating this Christmas counter move by Amazon.

What Makes Sense?

I suggest that it’s now logical for Apple to have a twice a year launch for iPad products. The “big” iPad is refreshed in March/April. That’s the flagship 9.7-inch, 2048 x 1536 resolution iPad 3 that we’re pretty sure is coming in a few months. It keeps the revenue high in that quarter.

Then, in the fall, Apple might come out with a lower priced 7.x-inch iPad, 1028 x 768 resolution, geared to a soft economy and Christmas season buyers. At a much more palatable price. Apple’s brand will pull a lot of those potential Kindle customers back to the mothership.

You may say that reducing the price on the iPad 2 to counter the 7-inch Nook Tablet, Kindle Fire, and others is a better strategy. I maintain that it’s a good stopgap strategy that will last Apple through the summer and into the fall. Remember, however, that the reason the Kindle Fire was successful was not only the price but the ease of holding it with one hand while reading. That has huge appeal to many people. So the strategy of a lower price iPad 2 this summer is, as I see it, not a permanent strategy, but a temporary strategy to make up for the door that was left open to Amazon.

Anyway, these are my thoughts. As I said, I don’t claim to know what Apple will do, but I think it’s interesting to speculate logically on recent events and how Apple could counter Amazon. After all, once you leave a competitive door open, everyone else, Samsung, Amazon, and Google, will continue to drive a wedge into that open door, form a new beachhead, and expand on it. Apple has to put a stop to that ground assault, and an iPad 3 in March/April 2012, alone, won’t do it.

 

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6 Comments Leave Your Own

skipaq

I don’t think Apple would release an iPad 3 and iPad 4 in one year. That was the way DigiTimes rumor was reported. If on the other hand we are talking about the rumored 7” iPad or scaled up Touch, that is a different matter. This size tablet has a market and it would be especially attractive for kids and teens. Apple can do this better than what is offered by Amazon and still make it a profitable device. However, calling this size tablet an iPad 4 would create all sorts of confusion.

nytesky

Apple doesn’t approach the market the way you describe. They spend the time and resources within those 1 year release dates to make substantial improvements to hardware and software to make compelling upgrades. Releasing products in such a compressed timeline is also detrimental to the perceptions of previous purchasers and potential customers. Ramping up new products at the scale of the iPad is costly and distracting. Apple has a successful template with using older model iPhones to widen the price umbrella and would be smart to adapt that to the iPad. This increases the value of the investment it took to bring those products to market because they can sell it for two years instead of jut one.

mhikl

Excellent points, JM. I agree with skipaq and would like to see an oversized iPad touch as the way to go to counter Amazon and support the group of readers who like the smaller handler for reading and note taking along with the other functions the touch offers. Not everyone wants to toss their computer keyboards just yet and the MBA is too much of a temptation for those who want light and flexible.

I have a Kobo and would toss it in a second if a decent replacement from Apple came available. I wonder if the same might appeal to those who feel burned by the fire.

Dorje Sylas

What was embarrassing was that there was no A5 power iPod. For realz! The fact that the iPod was just a reskin to White this winter instead of having full HDMI cable Mirroring over both a cable or to an AppleTV. True it may not have been 720p resolution but it would have been an impressive “toy” and drop kicked all the portable gaming handhelds off a cliff.

While iPhones can be “wowwy”, without a equally “wowzer” iPod there isn’t much for non-smartphone consumers to sink their teeth into. Moving the iPad to winter isn’t need if the iPod had gotten a proper upgrade (and a decent backside camera).

The underlying slogan could have been “sure you can get a Kindel Fire but you it won’t share home movies out of your pocket (or any other movie/video/stream). The iPod Touch and AppleTV, bring magic to your living room this holiday season.”

Dirt Road

I’m not convinced that a 7” tablet fills a useful niche. A phone fits comfortably in a shirt pocket, a 10” tablet is the perfect size for a netbook case. A 7” tablet is too big to fit in a pocket, but too small for a netbook case (although I’ve put a Kindle and iPad in one netbook case).

I have a Kindle 3 (the actual eReader rather than the Fire) and it’s about the same size as a 7” tablet. It makes a great niche product ? I use it for reading much more than the iPad. But since I’m a guy, and don’t have a purse, it’s an awkward carry at times. It fits in the back pocket of some of my pants, but I’d hate to sit down on it & snap it in half.

OTOH, it might be a good size for a kids’ tablet, a comfortable fit for smaller hands & you get to keep your iPad. :D

DaveMTL

The truth is that I have never seen a breakdown of which Kindles sold in the millions. They only give shipping data for the entire Kindle line and infer success of the Fire. If that is so, why not brag about the fire with actual shipping or, even better, actual sales data on the fire?
Also, we see significant blowback from clients who purchased the fire and were VERY disappointed with this we didn’t expect to hear about.
I am dying to see the actual data and compare it to Apple’s data come the 24th.

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