Friday, October 26, 2012

iPad Mini Pricing

A fun data point to help think about the reasonableness of the iPad Mini's pricing.  The original iPod Mini (4GB, 1.67 inch grayscale 138x110 screen, 8 hour battery life, 3.6 oz) was sold through February 2005 for $249(!).  And people bought it like crazy.  It was expensive but people found a way to justify its purchase.  I suspect plenty of people will find a way to justify the purchase of the iPad Mini.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

iPad Mini

A few not-so-special thoughts on the iPad Mini that put in writing what I would say if someone were to ask whether to buy it:

1) It is really an iPad 2.  Same processor (noting, as anticipated, that the 32nm process allows Apple to stick to the 10 hour battery life specification that they have chosen to be a fundamental iPad feature), same memory, same resolution (but not PPI), etc.  And an iPad 2 is only $70 more.  So if one doesn't own an iPad and is price sensitive, he should just buy a 2 (noting that it may not get supported up to iOS 7 as iPad2 was not given Siri).
2) It's a bit pricey compared to Androids (both branded and unbranded) and iPad 2.
3) But, if one already has an iPad and is looking to add another, the Mini starts getting more attractive vs. a 2 (Siri, better camera).  Especially if "another" means an "auxiliary" iPad - one that is picked up because the other is being used or that is taken on the road, etc.  The distinguishing physical features (weight, size) tied to the same overall experience (iOS 6 with no compromises) might make this the device of choice for out-of-the-house use.
4) This is especially the case for those with a first-generation iPad and a second (iPad 2 or New iPad).  For those who can't quite justify buying a third full-size iPad when the iPad 2 works just fine, the slightly lower price with changed physical attributes could be enough to make this worth buying.
5) I imagine that the $329 price is strong evidence that Google and Amazon sell their tablets at cost based on Apple's 30-40% profit margin target.  This isn't really relevant to a purchase decision other than to suggest that the lower price of the Nexus and Fire shouldn't be seen as a sign of significantly worse quality.  This is #2 stated otherwise and might push a buyer towards one of those two.
6) I suspect that there will be some interesting education pricing (maybe $300) but that the iPod Touch made the $299 price almost impossible to use. So look for reduced prices for the Touch and Mini in 6-9 months.  Meaning that there's no rush to buy a Mini here - especially with an A5 that will be two generations behind an assumed A7 in 12 months or less.
7) I have thought that the product introduction cycle for iPad and iPhone was backwards - although both are suitable gifts, because of the carrier hassles, iPad makes a better gift.  And thus Apple would be better served with fall introductions than spring.  Perhaps the iPad 4th gen introduction is a sign that iPads will now get updated in the fall and phones will transition to the spring.  Now is exactly the right time to make this switch.  The next phone will likely retain the 5's design and so development time is slightly easier (one less major change to manage).  Fall 2013 iPad has a natural design direction (thinner and lighter as the current is heavier and thicker than the 2) and so has a good selling proposition.  Six month upgrade cycles are so fast as to upset purchasers (note those who have asked to return their third-gens because the fourth came out) and perpetually delay purchases.  I note this in the context of an iPad Mini purchase because one should not hold out for an iPad fifth gen in spring 2013 if the choice is between Mini now or fifth gen later.

My takeaway from my advice to myself:
- We have a first-gen that is getting laggy;
- We take the iPad with us all the time and it can be a little burdensome (it has a heavy case);
- We haven't been spoiled with the retina iPad's display (only have an iPad 2 and the first-gen);
- We won't buy a new full-size iPad until it gets thinner and lighter; and
- $329 is not great but still better than $399 for another 2.

So we will buy one for Christmas and strip down the old iPad so it runs a little faster as a pure web + iTunes machine.  Like our old iPhone 3Gs.

A last thought: the iPad 2 may have been retained to do something similar with the MacBooks: create a retina line and a non-retina line as Apple transitions to all-Retina over time.  The continued presence of the 2 without highlighting it as the "base" iPad is weird.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Microsoft Brands

Something is jarring about this clause from today's NYT:  "[Microsoft] is marshaling some of its most powerful brands as never before: Windows and the Xbox."

Windows is undoubtedly well-known.  But "powerful"?  I think of a powerful brand as one that has such strong and favorable connotations that, by simply lending its name to another product, it can also bestow some of its good will.  Windows does not strike me as such a brand. Moreover, extending a brand is risky - better to share the name with equally good products rather than hope consumers will never notice that the new thing is not quite like the old.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Amazon and Google

Amazon is getting into the loans business.  Google has self-driving cars.  What do these two things have in common?  My pet theory is that both of these companies were built to help fund the true enthusiasms of their founders and that their genius allowed them to build enormous businesses as tools to get there.  Their success in retail and search has obscured what I hope are their underlying motivations.

Amazon moved from books (among the easiest of goods to sell on-line because of almost zero concerns of customers of fraud, mishandling, etc.), to general retail, to cloud computing, and now to loans.  I've come to think that its real goal is to dominate what was quaintly called B2B.  By developing a deep understanding of retail, customer service, and branding, Amazon has built up the expertise to begin providing services to business.  Taking a few pennies here and there but across the entire value chain.  And it started with general retail because you need a big arena if your business exists to make money on the margins.  And, with the enormous scale of Amazon, it can enter into markets that seem impenetrable or daunting because of the capital demands.  And (another and), become the largest company on earth.

Google is doing something slightly different but similar in tone.  Here, the founders built a search engine, now advertising company, not because they love marketing or search but because the gold mine of google affords the freedom to try capital intensive projects.  Again, similar to the way Amazon grew based on the value created through retail.

All complete speculation but a way to explain why some very smart people seem to be so unfocused - I think the presumed focus is merely a means to reach the true goal.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

USB-Lightning Cables

The apparently imminent launch of the iPad Mini (or whatever it will be called) could help to explain why USB-Lightning cables continue to be in short supply.  Given the choice between selling them in retail and as a constraint on sales of a new iPad form factor, I guess it makes sense to make sure they are allocated first to the iPad Mini (although margins must approach 100% on the cable, cash margin of the iPad Mini sale is still higher at about $60-75).  There were plenty of cables available before the launch of iPhone 5 (I got mine in two days) and now it's on backorder.  That doesn't usually happen with Apple's supply chain.