Books written by Ray Sullivan

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Apple Poised to Launch iPad Mini Next Week

Steve Jobs is famously remembered for dismissing the possibility of producing an iPad smaller than the ten inch version that has taken the world by storm and has revolutionised the perception of the computing world as to how computing should look and feel.

Three years ago the trend was towards mini sized netbooks and mega sized laptops, with the previous industry standard sizes of fourteen and fifteen inch screens languishing.  It was another turn of the wheel, a search for something new, more functional.  The desktop was all but forgotten.

Then came the iPad, a device I described at the time as a solution looking for a problem.  Well, in a way I was right as it seems it has consistently mopped up problems that none of us realised existed a few years ago.  And although some of the solutions are clearly trivial applications, the device is increasingly being seen as a serious business tool.  It has certainly moved from the perception as an overpriced, expensive toy to an overpriced, expensive business tool.

It should have been forced down in price - market forces, monetarism theory and herd mentality all point to that being the logical direction for the price given that there have been plenty of iPad-alikes released since that first iPad had been released.  However, Apple have played a very clever game by building a superb infrastructure to support the iPad and associated devices, linking them through the iCloud while constantly improving the device and the IOS.

But this year has seen a number of effective challenges to the Apple crown.  Instead of tackling it head on, they have targetted the area that Jobs stated Apple wouldn't venture unless over his dead body.  Well, a year is a respectful period to wait, I guess.  Apple clearly weren't too bothered by the Kobo Vox released last year but it seems the Amazon Kindle Fire, released in the US last November quickly ate into its market  share, providing a smaller but cheaper iPad like device from another trusted retailer.

Recently another dot com upstart, Google, released the Nexus 7 which, like the Amazon Fire which has just been launched in its second iteration, is a seven inch tablet.  Clearly Apple have taken the challenge seriously because it looks highly likely they will announce the launch of a sub eight inch tablet next week, hence subtly larger than the Kindle or Nexus offerings.  Industry rumours indicate they are downgrading some of the iPad specs such as the screen resolution which should help with keeping the cost down.  It could be argued that a smaller screen doesn't need as high a resolution anyway.  A 3G (or perhaps 4G) capability is also strongly rumoured although it isn't clear whether that will be a variant option as it is on the normal iPad.

I haven't seen any reliable rumours on pricing yet - there is a buzz that Apple will take on Google and Amazon at their $199 price point, but my guess is that Apple will leverage their reputation and the whole Apple environment to squeeze a bit more.  Expect the launch price to be $249, which will be seen as value to those who want to get into the Apple tablet world.  They may pitch at $299, and I guess they'll shift a good few units at that price but run the risk of polarising potential purchasers who may dither over the chance to trim $100 off the price by buying Google or alternatively going the extra mile and buying the 'correct' iPad size.  $299 would be realistic if the 3G or 4G capabilty was bundled in, I guess.

The timing is key - Amazon pulled off an incredible coup last year with its November release but many felt that they left it too late to capitalise on the holiday buying market.  Clearly they got it right, but then they were offering a unique solution.  This year they have a new iteration, Google are pushing hard with the Nexus and the mini tablet sector is rapidly maturing as people realise that it is a very convenient size indeed.

Tablets are going to be the big market this year, without  doubt.  Apple could well continue to dominate if they get the iPad mini launch right.  Look out for an Apple announcement next Tuesday or Wednesday.


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