So when the iPad 2 arrived earlier this year to rave reviews, some critics said it wasn’t the “real” iPad that Apple was supposed to release. The real product, allegedly, was meant to have a higher resolution display, an equivalent to the iPhone’s Retina Display. It would afford incredibly sharp images, perfect for reading books and magazines. Amazon’s E Link and its picture perfect text display would be yesterday’s news, even if that gadget is cheaper and only excels at one task.
Yes, there were rumors that Apple was testing higher resolution displays, and also rumors that they weren’t able to bring the costs down to be able to deliver such gear at the current price. All of this was reported against a background of a growing number of competitors, most using the Android OS.
However, when the iPad 2 came out, with essentially the same display as the previous version, the critics were disappointed. They wanted their Retina Display, even though no smartphone or tablet maker, other than Apple, has made it work successfully and affordably. But Apple never promised such a thing; it was all speculation and nothing more.
So even though the iPad 2 took off like wildfire, some reporters felt it wasn’t enough, couldn’t be enough. There had to be more. Buttressed by rumors that Apple might be testing higher resolution displays, it was decided that this wasn’t going to be just the year of the iPad 2, but the year of the iPad 2, plus an iPad 2 Plus or whatever an enhanced model might be called. The theory went that the current product would coexist with a more expensive version. If you want more pixels, prepare to spend maybe $100 extra for the privilege.
Now one thing is certain about Apple, and that is that simplicity is mandated. There are already more versions of the iPad 2 than they might like. In addition to the Wi-Fi model with three storage capacities, there are separate 3G products for AT&T’s GSM network, and Verizon’s CDMA network. That’s nine models, each available in black or white, making a grand total of 18. That’s more than the usual Apple product lineup scheme, so I would imagine that forcing dealers to stock another 18 configurations of a “Pro” version would be an imposition, even if potential sales were huge. At the very least, consider those locked display cases and the need to buy extras, for example.
From a customer’s standpoint, I wouldn’t hazard a guess how many of you would have been willing to pay extra for an iPad with a Retina Display. In the end, maybe Apple would simply cannibalize their own sales, rather than pick up much if any market share against those failed contenders. Consider, too, that the iPad’s piece of the pie actually grew in the last quarter, even though there were more competing tablets around. There’s hardly any incentive to complicate the lineup with something that’s already trouncing all comers.
Forgetting the marketing issues, there’s one more thing: Some reports indicated that Apple just couldn’t raise the yields of high-resolution displays to sufficient levels regardless of price. So that, as they say, is that. But the same sources are also now suggesting that the iPad 3, due early in 2012 if one wants to predict any Apple product as due at any particular point in time, will be the one to have a Retina Display. More to the point, that Apple will reserve sufficiently high qualities of those enhanced displays to keep prices at their current levels. That means more misery for the companies who hope to gain some traction in the alleged tablet market.
Understand that I am not saying with 100% certainty that the display of the next iPad will necessarily be of a higher quality than the current model. Again, you never know with Apple. But even if that reported Apple media event does occur on October 4, the bill of fare will not include the introduction of a new iPad.
As far as the market for other tablets is concerned, it’s still essentially a lost cause. That hasn’t stopped retailers from pretending that the iPad is just one of many tablets. Many Best Buy electronics stores have already converted the signs for the PC section to include “Tablets,” even though it hasn’t been proven that the market exists for anything other than an iPad.
Sure, those other companies may sell a few hundred thousand units here or there, which may be an adequate quantity for them. Samsung claims to have shipped a few million Galaxy Tabs, though it’s not at all certain just how many are actually being shipped to real customers and not just sitting in large storage boxes at dealer or distributor warehouses. Besides, with Apple gaining some victories in their ongoing legal fight to stop Samsung from selling what they regard is iPad copies, you wonder whether customers will even seriously consider buying something that may be discontinued in the next week or the next month.
Moreover, HP’s decision to dump the TouchPad so quickly at fire sale prices has gotten some to believe that the new price point must be $99 for a credible iPad killer. Unfortunately, companies will be losing hundreds of dollars on every sale, so that’s hardly a sensible way to build market share. And I doubt many potential iPad customers are simply going to sit on the sidelines and hope for a better mousetrap; maybe next year.