Apple giveth, and Apple taketh away. Before yesterday’s Apple event, rumors were running rampant that Apple would be introducing an 8GB iPad mini model priced at $249. Such a device, many believed, would eliminate Apple’s tablet competition for the vast majority of the market. The iPad would continue to dominate the higher-end market, while the iPad mini would be the premier choice for those looking for a cheaper tablet to run apps, watch movies, and to read on.
Instead, Apple announced a 16GB version for $329. Not only is that more than a $100 more expensive than the entry-level Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire HD, it crosses the mental-barrier of $300. There is no doubt in my mind that the iPad mini represents a much higher-quality product in terms of materials and construction used, but to many people, it simply isn’t worth the extra cash. iOS does have some outstanding points in a tablet (particularly, its app library is far superior to anything that is offered by Google, Amazon, or Microsoft at this time, and the iPad mini is compatible with every single one of them).
If Apple had shipped an iPad mini at such a competitive price point as $249 this year, then it seems likely that the competition would have seen a major setback ahead of the holidays. Numerous sales that might have gone to Amazon’s new Kindle lineup, or to Google’s venerable Nexus 7 tablet, would have gone to Apple. Apple’s already slaughtering their competition on the high-end, and even with Windows 8 on the horizon, this seems unlikely to change. However, on the low-end, where Apple is the newcomer, we have two products which are truly worthy of consideration for consumers.
However, both Amazon and Google’s offerings are fatally flawed. Google doesn’t have the app selection, or the tablet-optimized UI that Apple has. Amazon, as they simply built their platform off of Android, has both of these issues, along with the fact that their software still isn’t smooth on their Kindle Fire products.
Both companies have another year, another major product and software cycle, to fix these issues, to secure content deals, and to generally try to prepare themselves for the coming iPad mini price drop. It’s coming – Apple has historically dropped the price of its last-generation product by a $100. That would put the lowest end iPad mini at $229 next year.
At that price, it’s pretty hard to say “no” to the apps, to music, the movies, and to the fantastic performance of the iPad mini. Until then, Google and Amazon (and Microsoft?) had better stay busy – competition is good for everyone.