In this live-from-an-abandoned-warehouse edition of The Baer Facts, I talk with Kyle Lacy of ExactTarget about Apple’s new iPad announcements, and the fact that they really don’t care whether the masses buy their gear.
I was neither overwhelmed nor underwhelmed by the new versions of the iPad. I was just whelmed.
The big feature of the newly christened iPad Air is that it’s faster (good) and a lot thinner (meh). The television commercial touting the new iPad Air demonstrates that the gadget can “hide” behind a pencil. In addition to being creatively barren and a rehash of the “look it fits in an envelope” reveal of the MacBook Air, it’s a curious feature to emphasize. At this point, are tablet owners really hoping for a device thin enough to fit behind a pencil? Is the difference between 1/8 inch thick and 1/16 inch thick driving sales?
Simultaneously, Apple rolled out the new iPad Mini. I was very much looking forward to this one, as I had planned to get one now that it has Retina display capabilities. But given that almost zero additional features were included, I’ll pass.
A major criticism of Apple after this product release was the fact that the company did not drop prices for the new iPads, and in fact increased the price of the Mini by $70. This is right on the heels of the company’s desultory rollout of the iPhone 5C – a device so unloved that the company’s own cases cover up the logo, and is so homely that Bill Maher said looks like your iPhone is wearing Crocs. Sales of the 5C are presumed to be disappointing, and it is rumored that the device was even conceived based on investor pressure to tap the Chinese market, among others.
This has led analysts to tsk tsk Apple for not sufficiently trying to expand their customer base via lower price points and intro-level product offerings. But guess what? Apple doesn’t WANT to expand their customer base (one of the reasons the whole 5C thing is so half-assed). They have enviable margins driven by their upmarket cachet, and the fastest way to kill that cachet is to broaden the product line. History is littered with brands that wanted to expand, and killed the golden goose in the process. Hilfiger. Mossimo. Mercedes may be on the way with their new, sub-$30k approach. Tiffany ain’t what it used to be, either.
We forget that Apple survived DECADES of being a company with single-digit market share in the personal computer space. Do you think they give a whit that they are no longer dominating the market for phones and tablets, with other firms gobbling up the low end of the buyer pool? I say not really.
I’m worried about the lack of feature innovation, and the advertising has been terrible over the past year. But on the product side, remember that Apple neither wants nor needs to have an offering at every price point. Stop bashing the company for being exclusionary, when that’s so clearly their strategy not a shortcoming.