The iPad Category

July 13th, 2011

I, like most, have been perplexed by the persistent rumors that Apple is gearing up to release a third iPad this fall. For those of you who don’t follow the product lineup closely, the iPad 2 was released just earlier this year, so Apple releasing a successor to that product so soon after would be a deviation from their more usual approach of shipping major updates to a product every 1 or 2 years.

I like Manton Reece’s take on recent speculation that it won’t be an iPad 3 so much as an iPad Pro:

This isn’t a replacement for the current iPad; it’s another layer to the product lineup. And like the awkwardly-named iPod Photo from 2004, I bet the iPad Pro is meant to be temporary.

But I disagree about the temporary nature of such a high-end counterpart to the iPad. Apple likes to segment the market and then keep it that way. There are four completely different classes of iPod for sale in the Apple Store, and iPhones that range in price from $49 (with a contract) to $649.00 (unlocked).  Mac Minis currently start at $699 while the beefiest Mac Pro starts at $4,999.

Apple’s segmentation seems to achieve the classic goal of taking a little or a lot of the customer’s money, depending on how much they have to spend. But many folks are inspired to buy in at several price-points for a single product line. I own a Mac Mini and a MacBook Pro. An iPod Nano and an iPod touch. An iPhone 4, and, well, my wife takes good care of my iPhone 3G. I also own an iPad. Will I buy an iPad Pro if it comes out this fall? If it puts my iPad 1 to shame (which the iPad 2, frankly, did not), then yes, I’ll probably buy one of those too.

I’ll be surprised if Apple doesn’t take the same approach with iPad that they usually do: the low-end unit is always surprising powerful for the price, but outdone by some whiz-bang innovations at the high end. No, they don’t apply this strategy to all of their products, but this isn’t some hobby for them. As Jony Ive says in a recent commercial, the iPad “defines an entire category.” Let’s see how Apple intends to fill that category out.

5 Responses to “The iPad Category”

  1. Isaac Crawford Says:

    The real question is when are you going to the Ipad app category? Hmmmmmm?

  2. mahboud Says:

    The cost of tooling for each of these devices is such that it isn’t a good decision to make a “temporary” product. If it were easy to slap together a Retina-class screen in an existing design, such that we would see an iPad 2s or some such, then maybe. However, again, I doubt that Apple would release the iPad 2, only to then cannibalize its sale with an iPad 2s.

    Also, is having a Retina display really what the iPad is currently lacking and the customers are clamoring for? No, it can’t be something as simple as that (not so simple for app developers).

    The iPad 2 is still selling well. With back-to-school season and the holidays coming up, its sales should only go up – and the competition just isn’t there yet to warrant coming out with a stop-gap solution.

    IMHO, Apple is more likely to come out with an iPhone 5 (or at a minimum a 4s), and then to segmentize, to release a ~7″ or so form factor to compete with that segment of the Android market. That smaller tablet format is a good size for gaming, or web and email browsing – for those who don’t want to give up their small phones and don’t want to carry around something that is too large for a jacket pocket. But that won’t fit the Pro moniker.

  3. Twist Says:

    I think these rumors are just that, rumors. I think Apple will be sticking with its 9 months to 1 year update strategy.

  4. Manton Reece Says:

    I should have clarified that I think this product could get a more specific (and possibly goofy) name than iPad Pro. Something that highlights whatever feature is new, like the iPod Photo I mentioned, or the Air. Otherwise it does imply a more permanent place at the high-end, unless “Pro” is just to prepare folks for the high price.

    But who knows. It’s still difficult to get past the unusual timing, even for a one-off special version of the iPad 2.

  5. John Says:

    I can’t say that Apple will do this or not but it seems possible. A double resolution display would be fantastic for all sorts of applications in medicine, science and engineering not to mention the arts. I’d get one in a heartbeat for sharing SEM images and x-ray maps.

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