I think Apple's experiment with six-month product cycles for the iPad will be short lived and will not extend to its iPhone franchise.
Apple is running faster to keep ahead of the tablet competition, but that’s not necessarily a good thing.
Releasing one big product a year gave past iPads panache. The new model was more eagerly anticipated. It could leverage a broader set of maturing technologies to make it different from last year’s model.
When you are rolling these babies out every six months they are no longer an iPad2 or 3, just the new iPad. Even now, the view is getting a bit blurry I suspect for Apple fans given Apple generically called the last two models the new iPad.
“Did you get the new iPad? No, I mean the new, new iPad?”
Now what was new about it again? The current model is mainly distinguished by a faster processor with better graphics, but that’s starting to sound like the old PC market.
In mobile systems, we know the speed that counts is the network. Here Apple is pretty much on par with everyone else adopting 802.11n Wi-Fi and LTE cellular. The company has even been a bit behind the curve adopting the latest wireless nets compared to Samsung, LG and others.
With its iPad Mini, Apple is following competitors from Amazon to Samsung into the new-for-it small form factor. True, they did so with an outsized 7.9-inch display and an ultra thin and light package.
The added inch of display created a 30 percent larger display area. When you compare actual useable space for Web pages—given Android’s use of tool bars—the iPad Mini offers 49 to 67 percent more room, said Apple’s veteran marketer, Phil Schiller who went to pains to show how much better a range of apps look on the new, new iPad than on Android tablets.
“They have phone apps stretched up, not tablet apps,” he said.
Samsung knows how to play the game of quickly rolling out broad portfolios of products. It releases 50 smartphones a year compared to Apple’s still once-a-year iPhone.
Perhaps the new new iPad is a temporary experiment. Apple steps on the gas a bit to see what happens to its markets and supply chains.
“It’s amazing the pace the team is at--the pedal to the metal engineering attitude is amazing,” said Schiller.
In the end, I doubt it is sustainable or helpful. I think the competition will just get tighter and differentiation will become—like the devices themselves—so thin you can barely see it.
I think the six-month tablet cycle could be a short term experiment, and one that doesn’t spread to the iPhone franchise.