Apple’s announcement today, has the entire Internet buzzing about what they did and why. Naturally, everyone is weighing on the impact and what it means. The fanboys say it was the greatest thing they could have done. The haters have come up with every reason why Apple is hurting its customers. There are many things to consider for each item that is being discussed.
The first item on the list is the lack of an optical drive in the new iMac. A couple of years ago Apple did away with that drive for Mac Mini users and, of course, the MacBook Air is too thin to even hold a CD. The powerful desktop computer was the last bastion of hope for those tethered to physical media. Everyone wants to know how they are supposed to use CDs. If you are truly immersed in the Apple ecosystem, you won’t really need that capability. Music, movies and apps are all downloadable through Apple. Most other software is downloadable through the manufacturer. If you are truly reliant on CDs, you have two choices. You can either not upgrade or buy an external SuperDrive for $79. If you need it, it’s available, but not used heavily enough by enough people to sacrifice the design to include it.
The 4th generation iPad was the next item that had people upset. It is only 6 months since the third generation came out and now Apple has dropped the 4th on us. Additionally, the separation in months between iPhone and iPad made life a little easier on consumers’ wallets. Back to back releases like this have people in an uproar. The release of the Mini (more on that soon), means now was a prime time to bump the specs on the full size one. The price point for the Mini attracts people into the ecosystem and the power of the 4th generation may help bring people to the next level.
Of course, the price of going from the 3rd to the 4th is the biggest issue for most people. Apple is not targeting people looking to upgrade. Their target is new business at the holiday season.
The iPad Mini is getting mixed reviews already. It is looked at favorably by the people who understand it and its purpose. To its detractors it’s worthless and will cannibalize iPad sales. First and foremost, there entire strategy behind it speaks out against cannibalization. It is not meant to be attractive to iPad users. When it was introduced, Tim Cook spoke about the amount of people that use tablets for content consumption, not creation. For those people a 7.9″ tablet is more than sufficient. It’s small, light and relatively inexpensive. You lose the ability to create on the big, bold screen of the full size, but that’s not its intent.
Also, at that price point it’s meant to grab the Android crowd away from the sea of tablets. It’s thinner, lighter and easier to hold (for both of those reasons plus the material). It is cheap enough to be a substitute and it is the same form factor. The full size iPad and 7″ Android tablets appeal to two entirely different demographics and use cases. Even though the iPad Mini is more expensive than other Android tablets of the same size and funtcion, it still offers more. It focuses on content consumption, but still has the full complement of 275,000 iPad specific apps. It has the same resolution as its big brother. It has the internal components to power all the heavy apps. So, it costs more than its competitors.
There is one tablet that gets a stay of execution from the iPad dominance and that is the Kindle Fire. Even in the Android ecosystem, the Kindle Fire marched to the beat of its own drum. It has a very customized Android user interface for starters. It limits productivity, purposefully, to almost nil. The cheese stands alone, by design. It is also cheaper. If you want a small, cheap tablet for pure content consumption you get a Fire. If you want to stay away from Apple for your own reasons, you get a Fire. If you want to create (cheap with huge mobility), you get an iPad Mini. If you want the full power of a tablet and app ecosystem, you get a full size iPad. It is that simple. Apple knew it. At no point were they trying to blur the lines between their own products, and that’s exactly why the iPad got the spec bump to the fourth generation today – to distance itself from the Mini in use case.
One last thing on the differences between them. 7.9″ is not a big difference from 7″ (as some tablets are), but that number is measured on the diagonal. That means that as that shrinks, both the length and width shrink. And the total area shrinks in multiples. That less-than-an-inch difference gives the iPad Mini a 35% larger piece of real estate in portrat view and 67% larger piece in landscape view. Those are hard, inarguable numbers and adjusted for pure content after all extraneous browser bars and navigation controls are removed.
There are people who will still buy the smaller 7″ Android tablets. Either they don’t want an Apple product or they are entrenched in that app ecosystem or they just simply want the most inexpensive device they can find. However, their devices will not be as small, durable, sleek, easy to hold or supported in OS and app perspectives. Everyone else will get an iPad of some kind.
So before you pan the releases today, consider the business behind each one and realize that Apple doesn’t just release things for the sake of doing it. There is a carefully calculated method to their madness. It’s frustrating at times and always expensive, but the business of business is business. And Apple knows its business.