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Old Nov 12, 2012, 03:24 PM   #1
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Join Date: Sep 2011
iPad mini - did Apple pull a brilliant "fast one?"

I've written much about the mini, both before and after release. Don't expect any vitriol here - I believe it's a brilliant business move, offering a product in direct competition with the one segment of the massive tablet market that Apple doesn't dominate. I don't think 2012 Xmas will see Kindle capturing 22% of US tablet sales, as they did in 2011 - and that's not going to be because of the Microsoft Zune^2, or whatever they're calling that thing.

But sales expectations aside, I'll ask a question: did Apple pull a brilliant "fast one" on Apple fans, one which will ensure greater sales and more new customers than ever? I think they might have...by getting Apple fans to hate the mini.

Wait, huh?

Let's step back a moment. I think there's little question that the iPad Mini is one of the more controversial devices Apple has introduced. There's no reason for this...it's just a smaller iPad. All Apple had to do was retool one of their Chinese factories to make smaller iPads. It's not like they're scuttling the larger iPad line, and it's not like the mini stopped the larger iPads from getting a nifty update. So there's no real reason for Apple fans to be perturbed by the mini, but many are. Check around these forums and you'll find totally "cool and rational" comments like:

"The iPad mini is the dumbest device Apple ever made."
(Devices don't really have intelligence...yet, but whatever)

"Buy it and return it, tell Apple they can't give us underspecced (sic) garbage..."
(But if you know what you want is a full size retina iPad, just buy that in the first place and save yourself a stroke.)

"You sir, have poor eyesight. The resolution is simply bad."
(Last year these people were raving about the iPad 2's display. It's not like this thing has a 1987 CGA display.)

"I will personally laugh in the face of everyone who buys an iPad mini."
(That's a lot of spiteful laughing, considering that millions of people will buy this - but oh man, the frequent flier miles you'll earn.)

"The 7.9" "iPad" is an ABOMINATION!"
(You know, sometimes in life you just need to take a deep breath, think, and calm the frak down.)

Okay, so we could laugh at high blood pressure posters all day. They manage to spout some wonderfully hilarious garbage. The point here is that a lot of Apple fans don't like the mini. They feel they're somehow being ripped off by its very existence. Forget that Apple is also selling the larger iPad all souped up at the same price as last year. Somehow Apple's release of the mini is the equivalent slap in the face that Marie Antoinette's caused when she muttered "let them eat cake."*

*Actually, she never said this, and in fact there were no large scale starvation problems in France during this period...the nation was at the cutting edge of technology and produced ample food. This didn't stop the revolutionaries from murdering her. See, visit MacRumors and you never know what you'll learn.

It seems like the retina display is mostly what has people flustered. Oh-my-lord, how could anyone LIVE with such a travesty in technological design? Sure, 18 months ago we were marveling at the iPad 2's screen, but that was LAST YEAR. How dare Apple release a product using last year's tech?

For a while, I thought that the choice of a non-retina display was primarily cost. The mini shouldn't compete with the larger iPad, it needs to compete with the Kindle Fire and other plastic sub-$300 tablets. One way to accomplish this, while keeping the aluminum frame and other elements that make the iPad an Apple-quality product, was to ditch retina. Analysts have estimated that retina added anywhere from $50-$100 to the iPad 3's production costs. On the high end, this would push a retina iPad Mini up around $429...a totally nonsensical price where you might as well just buy an iPad 4. So my assumption was that the leading reason to use the older display was to push the price down into Kindle territory.

But now, I'm seeing a possible second reason. Did Apple choose a non-retina Mini because they knew fans wouldn't like it? This might actually be a brilliant move on their part - ensure that the holiday mini inventory isn't snatched up by Apple customers cannibalizing the iPad line by releasing a mini that current ipad owners won't want. Give these customers an awesome new iPad 4, then leave the minis to new customers so that you maximize the growth of the Apple customer base.

This idea sounds the silly sort of conspiratorial ring fanatics often associate with large companies or governments. In all likelihood, the retina decision was probably all about cost. But if we read the Apple fan posts, it seems clear they're buying ipad 4 and not the mini, so what I describe above - great sales on the 4's with returning customers and huge sales on the minis with primarily new customers - might be an unintended benefit of releasing a non-retina mini.

So, whether by happenstance or because Apple has some secret think tank cabal stashed away in a smoke filled room somewhere (it's patchouli, not cigarettes...I mean, obviously), the fact that the mini doesn't come with retina might be a good thing. Apple fans will bluster and steam...then go buy an iPad 4 and/or iMac, and the minis will be left for who they were designed for - budget buyers who don't have $500 to spend but also don't really want a Kindle, buyers who don't give a flip about retina or A6 or graphics cards...they just want an awesome way to surf the net, email, socialize and use some basic apps. The mini will, whatever it's shortcomings, do these things with aplomb.
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