Did Apple Accidentally Reveal its New iPad Strategy?
In 2012, Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) created a vicious cycle when it decided to release the fourth-generation iPad roughly seven months after the third-generation model arrived at retail.
The decision surprised many tech enthusiasts, but it was entirely necessary. Without the iPad 4, Apple would have had to rearrange its product lineup for 2013.
Before the iPad Mini was unveiled, many expected the iPad 4 to be released in the spring of 2013. If Apple jumped ahead and released it in November 2012, the company could feasibly sit tight for a while and release the iPad 5 and iPad Mini 2 in November 2013.
However, if Apple had only released the iPad Mini last fall, it would have likely upgraded the 10-inch model in the spring. This could have divided its customers as they pondered the contents and features of the next iPad, which would have been right around the corner.
Thus, Apple did what it had to and released the iPad 4 prematurely to prevent other premature upgrades.
That was the thought, at least. It now seems that Apple may be implementing another strategy. Instead of releasing sensible upgrades at key times during the year (as it has with the iPhone), Apple is determined to tweak the iPad as frequently as possible.
The question now is whether or not this is an effective strategy for the Mac maker to implement.
In the official press announcement, Philip Schiller, Apple's Senior VP of Worldwide Marketing, said that the company has sold more than 120 million iPads worldwide. Apple sold nearly 20 million of them in the last quarter alone.
With an MSRP of $799 for the Wi-Fi model and $929 for the 4G (cellular) edition, the tweaked iPad is anything but cheap. If there were a few new features -- or even a longer-lasting battery -- Apple may have been able to easily justify the price to some consumers.
Apple is not aiming to sell the 128GB model to consumers, however. Its goal is to conquer the enterprise market -- the same market that Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) is shooting for with the Surface Windows 8 Pro tablet. Both items are due to ship next week.
Unlike Surface Windows 8 Pro, however, the 128GB iPad 4 does not provide any bonuses beyond the increased storage space. It is not on par with a MacBook Pro or a MacBook Air, which cost more but offer a plethora of additional benefits.
Surface Windows 8 Pro, which starts at $899 ($100 more than the Wi-Fi-only iPad), is comparable to an actual laptop. It contains the full version of Windows 8, an Intel (NASDAQ: INTC) Core i5 processor, 4GB of RAM, a microSDXC card slot and one USB 3.0 port, as well as a Mini DisplayPort.
None of these features can be found within the current iPad. As an iOS device, it runs Apple's mobile operating system -- not Mac OS.
Regardless, some investors are bound to speculate that Apple only chose to release the 128GB iPad to counter Microsoft's efforts. Even if that is the case, it does not change the fact that Apple is setting a new precedent for its device upgrades.
Instead of waiting until the optimal time to release each enhancement, Apple is perfectly content selling iPads that are tweaked with some of the most minor upgrades the industry has ever seen.
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