We Apple fans have become used to Apple’s methods for product announcements. There’s a new iPhone every year. Macs get updated every year, along with a new version of OS X. The iPad seemed to follow along a similar path but Apple did something with the iPad mini announcement that is both unusual and perhaps a harbinger of things to come.
It wasn’t the iPad mini news itself that is intriguing. Pretty much everything about the mini was leaked ahead of time, therefore, expected. No, the real news was the 9.7-inch iPad.
A mere six months after launch, Apple updated the iPad 3 to iPad 4. Faster CPU, new Lightning connector. Same price. Apple has already announced a more frequent update schedule for OS X, and there are rumblings in the industry that the company may abandon the once-a-year update schedule for iOS devices in favor of faster updates.
Why? Or, rather, why bother? Apple is doing just fine with iOS device market share, profit share, revenue share vs. any of the remaining competitors in smart phones and tablets.
Historically, Apple has updated and released products according to its own ‘when it’s ready‘ posture. However, Apple now recognizes that the future of computing is personal, handheld devices with greater mobility, and the stakes are much higher.
Competition is intense with new products released every month. Apple appears too predictable with an obvious once-a-year product update strategy. That enables Apple’s competitors to leapfrog to new improvements and enhancements which quickly make Apple’s products appear out of date upon release.
What can Apple do? Because the technology changes and improves so quickly Apple will need to update hardware within the iOS or OS X version life cycle. We’ve seen that take place already with the update to the 9.7-inch iPad 4 a mere six months after the original launch.
What can we expect from Apple in the next year? Faster product refreshes. How about another 9.7-inch iPad six months from now? Thinner, lighter, faster. Then, shortly after that, another refresh of the iPad mini internals, perhaps with a faster CPU, and a Retina display (or, at least an improved display).
Clearly, Apple needs to avoid becoming too predictable with product updates and get off the annual party.
Beyond the screen, my other pet peeve with Apple’s iPad mini is the same as I have with the iPad. Memory. The 16GB iPad mini debuts at $329. It costs $100 more for 32GB. $100 for 16GB? Really, Apple. Amazon charges only $50 more for 32GB.
This isn’t an Apple’s to apple comparison of flash memory, but a 32GB SanDisk Cruzer can be purchased from Amazon for about $20. 64GB for about $40. But Apple charges $100 for 16GB more memory for iPad (but, to be fair, another $100 gets you another 32GB of memory. $200 for 48GB is outrageous.