Something strange is going on in Cupertino, CA these days. Steve Jobs’ ghost is not roaming the halls late at night. If he was, wouldn’t his presence spur Apple into making something new, upgrading something old, and taking a few more product risks?
That’s what I think, too. More than five years after Jobs’ death, Apple’s leadership has grown risk averse. The perfect example is the iPad. Apple sells about twice as many iPads as Macs, albeit at lower price points, so it doesn’t make as much money. But the latest un-announcement gives the pent up demand for new iPads yet another iPad at new prices but with not much new in the iPad itself.
Since Tim Cook took over as head honcho at Steve Jobs’ company, Apple has gone through the upgrade mill with updated products, but the only new ones are AirPods and Watch, both of which are mere accessories to iPhone. Now we have a new iPad which is so anemic that Apple didn’t bother with a formal announcement and presentation; possibly so Tim Cook wouldn’t be booed off the stage.
The new iPad is much like the old iPad Air 2 but a bit heavier and thicker, with a faster but not-too-fast A9X CPU from a few years ago. The biggest news is the price. iPad now starts at $329 for 9.7-inches of somewhat less portability. $329? iPad Air 2 is gone so we’ve probably seen the last of Air Anything Apple.
So, the iPad line is just iPad and iPad Pro and iPad mini. The new iPad gives you Wi-Fi and 32GB of storage for $329, but 128GB of storage, as always, is $100 more, and, again as always, the Cellular option is $130 more. Confused?
Wait. There’s more confusion. The largest iPad Pro starts at the same old $799, the 9.7-inch iPad Pro starts at $599, and the 9.7-inch iPad starts at $329. OK, but the smaller 7.9-inch iPad mini 4 starts at $399 but only comes with the 128GB storage option.
What is Apple saying with this iPad refresh?
We got nothing new. Let’s rearrange the sizes, prices, and configurations and hope nobody notices that we got nothing new. Maybe next year. After we’ve moved from One Infinite Place to the new building at Steve Jobs Spaceship Lane. Then we’ll start work on something new.
That’s exactly what I imagine is going on at Apple these days. For all the billions of dollars spent on Research and Development, for all the billions more spent on stock buybacks and dividends, the best Apple can do these days is accessories for the iPhone and rearranging the price and configurations for iPads.