Apple is doing fine – they’re selling the iPhone as quickly as they’re made, and the iPad is quickly ramping up to overtake even the iPhone. No company has been able to throw a wrench in Apple’s iPad rollout. While other tablets have come along, they have been hampered by various factors, including lackluster ecosystems, poor hardware, and a lack of tablet-native apps on other platforms.
That seemed like it could have changed last year, when Amazon launched the original Kindle Fire. Many claimed that the Fire’s ridiculously low price of $199 would force Apple to either introduce a new iPad with a smaller display (which is, ironically, rumored to be happening next month), or even just to simply drop the price of the then-current iPad 2. Apple did neither, and the reviews of the Fire came in: slow, buggy, and oddly-designed hardware. However, there was almost universal praise for the idea of a cheap tablet with a great, if not fantastic, ecosystem backing it.
This year, Amazon seems to have responded to those reviews: they’ve made their devices faster, and they’ve (supposedly) optimized and debugged their software. Whether this is all true remains to be seen, though it does beg the question: does Apple have to respond? Will they be damaged in the market if they don’t?
I think not, though it’s still a possibility. Apple’s current line-up gives customers the iPad 2 at $399.99. This is the weakest product, simply because of its low-DPI display. Amazon will be offering a “retina”-like device for $100 less than this, but with the same amount of storage and connectivity options.
The iPad Mini, rumored to be announced and shipped next month, will likely ship at $199.99 – a fair price, given its rumored internals and (supposedly) superior construction and design. Still, if Apple was thinking about releasing the Mini for $250, I don’t think it’s a great idea. Go for marketshare at this point, not profits – Apple, and Tim Cook, are aware of this.
The iPad 3 is getting on in its product cycle, but iOS 6 will offer some pretty fantastic boosts to its functionality, including Siri and various tweaks and design updates. For that reason alone, I don’t think the iPad 3 will be harmed: it remains the “premium” tablet, and nobody has yet been able to hold a candle to it. Amazon is close, but I feel that their rather constrained UI will hold them back from crossing the line and becoming a device that can move from productivity, to play, and back again – which could be on purpose, as it benefits Amazon to keep users in their own, closed ecosystem as much as possible.
But what do you think? Will Apple have to respond to Amazon’s Fire lineup? How will they do it – price drops? Which products? Or will they instead continue to ride the high road, until they’re ready to announce the rumored iPad Mini?