In the early part of this century, Apple introduced one of the most sought after devices of all time: the iPod. It was a runaway success to the point where the word iPod became synonymous with all portable music players. After its introduction other manufacturers did what they could to differentiate their products from Apple’s. Their solution was to undercut the iPod on size and price; a noble effort completely snuffed out when Apple diversified its iPod lineup with varying sizes and entry level price points for the cost concerned consumer.
Fast forward to 2010, Apple launched another blockbuster product that created and defined a market. Two years later and the average consumer sees any tablet in the wild and immediately assumes its an iPad. Truth be told 1 out of every 5 tablet sold to consumers is most likely a Kindle Fire or Google Nexus 7. Once again other manufacturers have sought to gain traction in the tablet market by differentiating their device by size (smaller) and cost (cheaper). And once again Apple has made plans to put out that fire (pun intended).
The much rumored iPad Mini (iPad Air?) should be announced by Apple this Tuesday. The press invite states “We’ve got a little more to show you.” As is usually the case in an Apple invite, the wording gives it away: Apple is set to introduce a smaller, lighter, thinner iPad. Make no mistake, Apple will introduce a fantastic device. It is likely to be thinner, lighter, and more functional than any current “smaller” tablets on the market. It will also run iPad software and not glorified phone software, making it far more usable than other tablets and giving it access to the almost 300,000 iPad specific apps in the Apple ecosystem.
But is that enough?
If we know anything at all about average consumers, they may appreciate quality but not nearly as much as they appreciate cost. Google and Amazon have been so desperate to steal market share away from Apple’s iPad that they’ve priced their tablets aggressively, to the point that they are actually losing money on them. That is absolutely the antithesis of everything Apple believes. They make great products…and great profits. So can Apple meet them on price and still make money? Doubtful. Apple won’t hit $199 like their competitors. It’s unlikely they will even go as low as $249. But they could still sell insane numbers of these at $299. Unfortunately for Apple, the press is so fixated on price that they will likely be panned and, ridiculed if the starting price for this new iPad is anything over that $299 price tag, no matter how nice it is.
That is unless there’s something more to the story. Could Apple add some sort of new functionality to this new iPad that makes it demonstrably better than other small tablets? Revolutionized TV remote functionality? Insane thinness? Bluetooth or WifiDirect sharing to other screens/devices? Apple has played it fairly safe lately. Here’s hoping they have something mind blowing to show off on Tuesday.
But maybe Apple really does have a “little more” to show us.
If rumors and leaks are to be believed (and more and more they’ve become more accurate), some other products are getting updates, as well. And the “little” theme still applies.
The success of the 15″ Retina MacbookPro has helped pave the way for a 13″ Retina MacbookPro. This thinner and lighter notebook will be the industry leader in the category. A premium price will no doubt tag along, but the machine will represent a premium upgrade over the current 13″ offerings.
The MacMini will most likely get an upgrade, too. The smallest of Apple’s desktop computers, this affordably priced Mac might only see a spec bump to the latest processors, USB 3.0, and Thunderbolt compatibility.
Perhaps the most anticipated upgrade is that which is rumored to come to the iMac. It has been more than 500 days since the iMac saw any sort of upgrade. It is definitely due for a spec bump like the MacMini but might also come with a full redesign. Losing the optical drive could allow the most successful all-in-one computer in the world to become even thinner and more powerful (utilizing the cost savings for solid state storage options).
Wishful Thinking Warning
If we had our druthers here at ApplEvangelist, they would take the MacMini or iMac a step further and introduce a whole home solution of some type. Our mobile computing has become dominated more and more by appliance-like devices. iPhone and iPads represent the majority of mobile web usage. Third party accessory keyboards, etc have helped make them viable productivity options, as well. The role of our home computer has changed significantly. No longer do we find ourselves chained behind the bulky tower and monitor after school or work. They have become more of a hub; the place where the bulk of our media is stored and the place where we back up our other devices. Maybe it’s time for our home computers to evolve.
What’s stopping Apple from combining the functionality of an AppleTV, AirPort Extreme or Time Capsule, and iMac into one device? A computer that sits in a closet somewhere and pushes TV and computer content to dumb screens throughout our house? Dumb screens being the 52″ living room panel or the 24″ panel in the office and even the small screen in the kitchen or bedroom. It could function as a server to push out movies, music, photos, etc. to our mobile devices and control what we see on the TV at the same time. It could even use wifi and Bluetooth to control the next generation of light bulbs in our house.
The technology exists. And Apple is just the company to put it all together and make it “just work.”