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What Would a Cheaper iPad 3 Look Like?

Apple will reportedly bite the bullet and release a cheaper-than-expected iPad alongside the release of the iPad 3.

But what will it be, and what will it look like?

Initially, many believed that the Mac maker would launch a miniature (seven-inch) iPad that would encompass the same goodies as the iPad 3. I argued against this, pointing to logic (why train customers to expect a cheaper product from a manufacturer of premium goods?) and Steve Jobs' own words:

“The reason we wouldn't make a seven-inch tablet isn't because we don't want to hit a price point, it's because we don't think you can make a great tablet with a seven-inch screen,” Time quoted Jobs in October 2010. “We think it's too small to express the software that people want to put on these things. … So when we make decisions on seven-inch tablets, it's not about cost, it's about the value of the product when you factor in the software.”

Obviously a lot has changed since that time. But with regard to the existing slate of seven-inch tablets, Jobs had this to say:

“[O]ur potential competitors are having a tough time coming close to iPad's pricing, even with their far smaller, far less expensive screens. … The proof of this will be in the pricing of our competitors' products, which will likely offer less, for more. These are among the reasons that we think that the current crop of seven-inch tablets are going to be DOA—Dead on Arrival.”

Again, a lot has changed since October 2010. But I still firmly believe that Apple will stand by Jobs' wishes and refrain from releasing a mini-iPad.

Regardless, rumors continue to tell us that a cheaper iPad is coming. The latest is from DigiTimes, which claims that Apple will unveil an 8GB version if the iPad 2 alongside the iPad 3. This seems rather silly. Apple will inevitably lower the price of the iPad 2 the moment the iPad 3 hits stores. If the company releases an eight-gig version of the last iPad, it will force the company to price that model even lower than the price cut. That's not very characteristic of Apple, now is it? Alternatively, it could mean that Apple will simply keep the price of the iPad 2 as high as possible and make the 8GB model the “low-price” iPad. But that doesn't fit with Apple's strategy either.

If a mini-iPad is out of the question, and if an 8GB model is highly unlikely, what might Apple do next week?

The hype for the media event (see tagline: “We have something you really have to see. And touch.”) has been enormous. Apple wouldn't hold an event next Wednesday to simply tell us that the iPad 3 has been delayed two months, as some rumors suggest. And while Apple has been known to make a mountain (lion) out of a molehill, I don't think the company would solely use its March 7 event to unveil a newer, cheaper version of the iPad 2.

Some have speculated that Apple will release an iPhone 4S-style upgrade for the iPad before releasing a true iPad 3. But I really doubt it.

If a cheaper iPad is on the way, it will almost certainly be the same-old iPad 2 with a shiny new price. As it stands now, Best Buy (NYSE: BBY) shoppers can pick one up for $50 less. Though I don't know why anyone would want to get one right now with the iPad 3 unveiling less than seven days away.

This leaves just one alternative in the way of cheaper iPads: a lower-cost iPad 3. Many would say that this is out of the question. But if Apple wants to prevent manufacturers of cheaper tablets from gaining ground, the iPhone maker could launch a bare-bones (read: smaller hard drive) model.

Follow me @LouisBedigian

Posted-In: Apple best buy Digitimes iPad 2 iPad 3News Rumors Tech Best of Benzinga

 

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