The iPad Mini Announcement: The Un-Story.

The un-story is the story that isn’t told during the announcement itself and the one which the company might just as well prefer not be told at all.

Apple Marketing loses a bit of its discipline.

Having announcements of mega-events less than three months apart was something Apple used to never do.  Having them more often runs the risk of press distraction and fan uncertainty.  Should I get really excited  and buy this or save my money for the more exciting thing coming out in just a few weeks?  For the tech writers the iPhone 5 just prematurely became old news.

There is no question that anything capable of being announced in October was capable of being previewed in September.  The only answer is that the iPhone product group could not stand sharing the stage with the iPad product group.  That kind of internecine battle inside of a firm is not a good sign.  High tech firms are full of big egos and product line managers are usually among the top.  Steve Jobs had the one thing that can reliably keep big egos in check….an even bigger ego.

The new iPod Touch now looks sort of lame.

The event started with some words of praise regarding the iPod Touch, but by the end the new $329 base price for the 7.9 inch iPad mini made the $299 price for the 4-inch iPod Touch seem lame.  The iPod line had been suffering flat to declining sales in recent quarters and any hopes in the iPod product group that the new Touch would reverse that trend has been killed — from inside.

Apple competes in the 7-inch tablet market, sort of.

Apple spent quite some time in the announcement being dismissive of other 7 inch tablets, using the Nexus 7 as the example.  Which worked well enough until the subject of price came up.  The $329 price tag for the Apple product against $199 for the Nexus 7 is glaring.  Apple ignores this, as if the whole point of the smaller-tablet market was that you could hold it in one hand and not affordability.

It seems doubtful that the iPad mini is going to steal any sales from the Kindle, Nook, or Nexus small tablets.  If anything it may release sales.  People might have been holding off on buying one of those other tablets based on a belief that Apple might announce something that would be a better value.  Now that Apple has come out with something and it isn’t a better value, they may forge ahead with their purchase of a competitive product.  It seems unlikely that those who had mentally set aside $199 to get a small tablet will suddenly decide that they need to pay $329 instead (unless they were strongly devoted to Apple products).

The ‘New iPad’ buyers get a kick in the teeth.

It used to be something of an unwritten contract with their users.  If you stood in line or pre-ordered you would get a year of having the best of that product.  You won’t be expected to do it again for a year and a year from now you could sell your product and have it only be just now out of date.  That has changed with the ‘fourth generation’ iPad coming out after only six months.  It may have been something of a defensive move by the iPad team out of concern that the new $329 small tablet would make the $499 iPad seem rather absurd for only 1.8 inches of extra screen size.  So they needed something to make them a little less apples-to-apples comparable.  But now users will wonder, will this update also last only six months?

The new 13 inch Macbook Pro has an unclear niche.

Smaller! Thinner! Lighter! But not quite as small, thin, and light as the Air! It used to be the difference between the Air and Pro lines were simple.  The Air line had no optical drive, used solid state memory instead of a hard disk, and had fewer ports.  But now the new 13 inch Pro has no hard disk, and no optical drive.  The new Pro does have a HDMI port and two Thunderbolt ports rather than one.  But Thunderbolt devices can be daisy chained and can include HDMI interfaces with a cable.  So presumably one thunderbolt port is enough.

So…if you care about size and weight why not get the Air?  And if you want to spend money on a gorgeous screen on your laptop why not get the 15 inch version?  Apple may still sell more than a few of the new Retina display Macbook Pros but it has a poorly defined niche in the overall scheme of things.

The new Mac Mini and the new iMac were way overdue.

These were updates to the Ivy Bridge processors, which have been out for many months.  The new ‘fusion drive’ also represents hybrid drives that others have been offering for a while.  The new case design is visually striking but that is mostly a logical consequence of no longer offering an internal optical drive.  In other words there is no technical reason why Apple could not have announced these systems six months ago.  With the new iMac systems Apple has shown that it will do what it takes to have the best high-fashion PC designs, but their interest in always having the very top technology under the skin has slackened.

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