) has a big event planned for Tuesday, October 23. The company is
expected to introduce
the iPad Mini, a seven-inch version of its landmark tablet.
Apple may also unveil
the new iMac
, as well as upgrades to the Mac Mini and 13-inch MacBook Pro.
The latter seems unlikely, as Apple already upgraded the 13-inch
model over the summer, albeit without a solid state drive or a
Retina Display. There is one other product Apple could unveil
tomorrow: the fourth-generation iPad. This might sound like a
far-fetched fantasy that will never come true. But there are many
reasons why Apple should -- and possibly could -- bring the next
iPad to market far sooner than expected.
Premature vs. Frequent Upgrades
Consumers hate to wait for new technology. Whether it's a
tablet, smartphone, game console or some other device, consumers
are very impatient creatures.
This has made it easy for Apple to hype and promote the annual
upgrades of its products with minimal effort. The company spends
millions to market its devices
they are shipped to retailers. Until then, Apple relies on tech
bloggers, product enthusiasts and mainstream reporters to promote
its products. Thus far, this strategy has
If Apple were to release too many upgrades, it would run the
risk of hurting future sales. One of Benzinga's former news
analysts waited 18 months to purchase a new MacBook because he
was always eager to see what the
upgrade would be -- and subsequently, the upgrade after that.
This is partially due to the fact that the company had not
created the machine he wanted (he was waiting for something along
the lines of the
Next-Gen MacBook Pro
). But in general, they did not want to miss out on a superior
upgrade than the one that was currently available.
If Apple releases the iPad Mini this fall, it could lead to a
similar dilemma. There are fears that it could cannibalize sales
of the third-generation iPad. It may also create a situation
where consumers are too afraid to buy an iPad because they wonder
when the next iteration will be released.
This is not a problem that Apple has ever faced with the iPod
or the iPhone. Consumers know that when a new iPhone arrives, the
company will stand by it for roughly a year. Thus, the iPhone 5
will still be a "new" device in January 2013.
The same may not be true for the iPad Mini. If Apple only
chooses to release the smaller iPad this year, consumers will
speculate about the iPad 4 and its spring 2013 arrival. They may
wonder how it will differ from the current iPads, if it will be
as thin and as light as the iPad Mini, or if it will contain new
features that they cannot live without. If they start to worry
about that, they will be less likely to buy an iPad Mini this
While worrisome consumers may not be the market that Apple is
targeting (especially since the iPad Mini is designed to serve
the smaller tablet market), that does not mean that the company
should be willing to sacrifice those sales. If the iPad Mini is
appealing enough, Apple could feasibly sell the device to
, but not if consumers wonder what else is around the corner.
Thus, it would make a lot more sense for Apple to unveil both
the iPad 4 and the iPad Mini on Tuesday.
Product Upgrade Conundrum
Based on the rumors alone, it seems that Apple plans to
release each iPad Mini in the fall and each full-size iPad in the
spring, but the logic behind this is unclear.
Just as the iPod Touch borrows key features from the iPhone 5
(and was rightfully upgraded on the day the iPhone 5 was
announced), the iPad Mini is likely to mirror the
third-generation iPad. If Apple separates the product release
schedules for each iPad, consumers will always be torn between
iterations, potentially hurting sales of both devices.
By releasing both tablets together, consumers would not have
to worry about the next iteration and when it will be
Benzinga has already addressed the issue of
pricing the iPad Mini
. Assuming this does not concern Apple, there is still one
challenge ahead for the company. When the iPad 4 is released, the
third-generation model is likely to get a price cut of $100 or
more. At that time, it will then be closer in price to the iPad
Mini. The iPad 2, meanwhile, will be even cheaper (if still
available), making the iPad Mini even less attractive.
By releasing the iPad 4 and iPad Mini simultaneously, Apple
can cut the prices of its older models all at once and let
consumers decide what they want right now. If they choose the
third-generation iPad, Apple can rest easy knowing it still got a
sale. If they choose one of the newer models, the company will
gain higher profits. Either way, Apple wins.
The Competition is Growing
In recent months, a number of Apple competitors unveiled new
tablets, including Amazon (NASDAQ:
) and Barnes & Noble (NYSE:
). The devices may not be as powerful as the third-generation
iPad, but they are a lot cheaper, and cheap devices threaten to
reduce Apple's bottom line.
This is why Apple is thought to have sped up plans to build a
smaller iPad -- to stop the competition from devouring the
lower-end market. Size is only part of the equation. While some
consumers genuinely want a seven-inch tablet, many are buying the
smaller devices because they are less expensive.
This fall, Amazon and Barnes & Noble showed that they are
no longer content to compete with Apple on a seven-inch scale.
They both unveiled full-size tablets. Now Google (NASDAQ:
expected to do the same
doubling the memory
of its existing tablet, the Nexus 7.
Should Apple wait around for these and other manufacturers to
announce another round of tablets or upgrades? The iPad maker
would be wise to go all-in and unveil the iPad Mini
the iPad 4 this week.
(c) 2012 Benzinga.com. Benzinga does not provide investment
advice. All rights reserved.