iPad Mini: if not now, when?

September 16, 2012

Tech Christmas came and went earlier this week. The annual update to the Apple’s iPhone is upon us and, depending on your point of view, it is the greatest thing ever or a boring piece of metal and glass.

No iPad Mini made it to the stage at Apple’s announcement. So the speculation will continue. Will they or won’t they? If they will, why not now?

Timing is a very sensitive issue for Apple’s release of its new top of the line products. For a company that only makes a handful of announcements a year, Apple has to be fairly parsimonious with how it dolls out new updates.

Each event is designed to live within its own hype bubble and are spread out through the year. Sad to say, the schedule has become quite predictable.

The iPad was announced in spring 2010. Its two updates have also been announced in the spring, with the third-generation iPad dropping in early March this year.

Six iPhones have now been released and each new announcement has been pushed further into the year. For instance, why did Apple allow 15 months to elapse between the iPhone 4 and 4S? The 4S was not orders of magnitude better than the iPhone 4 and it is conceivable that Apple could have released it well ahead when it did, in October 2011.

Apple pushed it back to better time it with the holiday shopping season and to space out its product launches. Apple announces its new computers during its World Wide Developers Conference, which usually takes place in June each year.

The new iPhone was pushed up a month from last year and the effect is now that Apple has made a significant announcement in Q1 (iPad), Q2 (WWDC, iOS 6 and Retina Display Macbook), and Q3 (iPhone and new iPods).

Apple has set itself up perfectly to release a hot new product in Q4 strategically designed to strike into the heart of holiday shopping season. So, why not the iPad Mini?

Apple’s competitors have timed their product announcements around the launch of the iPhone 5. Nokia, Motorola, Samsung and Amazon all clamored to announce their newest smartphones and tablets ahead of Apple’s announcement, to gain traction and media buzz before the iPhone 5 ate headlines for the weeks after its launch.

By waiting for the market to take shape before announcing the iPad Mini, Apple has given itself the opportunity to have the last laugh. With the iPad Mini (if such a thing really exists), Apple has positioned itself to say to the entire mobile industry, “you thought you had us in a corner, huh? Well, we’ve been holding out on you. Behold, the iPad Mini!”

Whether or not an iPad Mini is a good idea for Apple is a different question. Would it cannibalize sales of the original iPad and cut into Apple’s famously large profit margins? Or would it have the opposite effect where Apple just sells more of everything? More large iPads, more small iPads, more iPhones more, more, more.

While people may have been disappointed that there was no iPad Mini announced this week, the tea leaves may point to a more dramatic entrance for Apple’s latest rumor. If the Mini is going to come, look for it to be announced near the end of October, or during the first weeks of November and on store shelves just in time for Black Friday.

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