iPad 3 Launch Thoughts

So it’s the world’s worst kept secret at this point that the iPad 3 will be announced on March 7th will availability to follow some time after that in a 9 to 10 day window.

What does the tech blogging world think they know?

1. Retina/High Resolution screen is a lock. Some bloggers are already downplaying this feature, but until we have a chance to see this new screen in action it’s going to be impossible to predict how big this feature could be.

2. Quad Core/Dual processor. Quad core processors will be appearing in Android devices throughout the rest of this year, but the iPad is an area where Apple has been forcing their competitors to play follow the leader. So MoD is betting Quad Core.

3. Vastly improved graphics processor.  And expect to hear some gaudy stats around this new graphics processor at the event.

4. LTE. So let’s get the obvious out of the way, Apple will utilize a chipset that combines GSM/CDMA. That combo iPad will be sold on Verizon/AT&T/Sprint. Now will this iPad 3 have LTE? MoD thinks offering LTE with the iPad is a great soft launch for the iPhone getting LTE later this summer.  So LTE iPad, yes.

5. iPad 2 will continue to be sold at a lower price. Expect it to be the WiFi only version with 16 GB of storage. $399 seems like an obvious price point.

What’s not going to happen?

1. No SD card slot. Just not going to happen.

2. No dedicated USB port.

3. Now the biggest rumor/story that is out in there, the 8 inch iPad or iPad Mini. Now is an 8 inch iPad a possibility? Definitely,  as we know from Jobs’ biography and the mass of articles written about the development of the iPad, Apple tried literally dozens of screen sizes and ratios (as well as screen resolutions) before settling on a 9.7 inch screen with a 4:3 ration. This smaller iPad rumor tends to make the rounds once every 3 months. Back in December,  MacRumors even went as far as to create some printable mockup of what a 7.85 inch iPad would look like.  Based on those printable mockups, an 8 inch iPad (which would only be slightly larger) seems like a very useable product. The resolution could be the same as the current iPad 2, reducing issues with product fragmentation. Icon size seems fine as does the virtual keyboard size.  So why won’t this product happen? Well the biggest issue would seem to be price point and where does it fit in with the current Apple product lineup. Presume that MoD is correct about some product pricing moving forward;

  • $399 iPad 2 16 GB
  • $499 iPad 3 16 GB
  • $199 iPod Touch 8 GB

Where exactly from a price point stand point does the iPad Mini fit? From just an iPad product standpoint, a $299 16 GB iPad Mini might be about right. Also, 3g for the smaller iPad Mini seems like an obvious optional feature. However, it creates problems for Apple with the iPod Touch in terms of pricing and feature set. iPod Touch maintains Apple’s portable non iPhone/non contract product. The iPad Mini is not going to be pocket portable, and a low price point will hurt the perceived overall value of the iPod Touch. Apple didn’t really update the iPod Touch in the fall so the future of the product is in doubt. Although, Apple might simply be waiting to update the iPod Touch with the new form factor of the iPhone 5. Still MoD just doesn’t see a niche for the Mini iPad, yet. The best argument against the iPad Mini for now, why take money off the table by offering a cheaper product? However, Apple’ s mantra “cannibalize your products before someone else does” could mean that Apple is preparing this product to counter future color LCD Kindles. And $299 iPad Mini v $199 Kindle Fire is very interesting customer decision.

Wildcard for iPad 3 Launch

Now Apple often plays a dangerous game with accessory companies by releasing their branded products such as the Smart Cover. Now, if there’s one area where accessory makers have not quite hit the right target it’s in the combo case/keyboard product to go with the iPad. Products like the Zagg Folio, this product from Brookstone, finally the laptop like Clamcase are all really close but no one has nailed it. In a recent discussion about ARM based laptops, Tim Cook indicated that he felt like innovation in the area of the iOS/iPad would soon meet the needs of folks wanting an ARM laptop. His statements cold be interpreted many ways but what if Apple at the iPad 3 launches the newest accessory some form of slide out keyboard smart case. Adds a keyboard but does not add the weight or bulk of the other current solutions. No one saw the magnetic Smart Covers coming, maybe Apple has a new high margin accessory ready to reveal.

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