We were expecting Apple to announce the iPad Mini today, and they did. The specs are what I predicted, although the price is higher. At $249, buying the Mini becomes a no-brainer for a lot of parents. At $329, it’s a stop-and-think decision. Some folks will stop and think, “A Kindle would be just fine.”
What I wasn’t expecting was for Apple to announce the fourth generation iPad, just six months after the third gen debuted. Fast wifi, more global LTE options, better FaceTime camera, graphics performance on par with the new iPhone 5 — and that’s pushing 3 million pixels on the Retina Display. It’s a gutsy call, and it must have caused some lost weekends and sleepless night for Apple engineers. But there might be a method to this madness.
Apple’s iOS line was out of sync. New iPhones dropped in the fall, sporting the fastest CPUs and newest version of iOS and all the other goodies. About six months later in the spring, the new iPad would come out, sporting what felt like last year’s tech. Assuming Apple doesn’t spring the 5th Gen iPad on us in April, it looks like they’ve gotten their iOS lineup all more or less in sync.
What does the Mini do to the tablet market? Well, really there are two tablet markets. There’s the massive market for the 10″ iPad. Apple announced today that as of two weeks ago, they’d sold their 100 millionth iPad. Not bad for a product (an entire product category) not even three years old. Then there’s the 7″ tablet space, which is tiny and co-owned by the Kindle Fire and various Androids, most especially the Nexus 7.
If consuming Amazon content is what you want, you’ll buy a Kindle. Fandroids will stick with Android. But Apple is about to explode the size of the 7″ tablet market. I don’t expect Kindle or Samsung or whomever to lose many — any? — to Apple. What I expect will happen is that Apple will sell to a whole lot of people who weren’t previously in the market for tablets.
In a sense, it is a replay os the Windows/Mac Wars of the 1990s. Windows didn’t dominate because Apple couldn’t sell Mac. On the contrary, Mac sales held steady or even increased the whole time. What the Wintel alliance was able to do was to sell to millions of people who had never been in the market for a computer before. Wintel exploded the size of the PC market, which was a tremendous feat and something Apple was never able to do. But now Apple looks set to do something similar for tablets.