Whether it’s the iPad Mini, the iPad Air, the new new iPad or something else, along with expected new Macs that haven’t already been updated over the past few months, Apple’s invitation for October 23 makes it crystal clear there’s more new iGear coming this year.
Top of that list is the iPad Mini, which some think might be called the iPad Air due to an expected surprisingly light weight coupled with iPod Touch 5th-gen thinness, as it takes the highly successful iPad and shrinks it to a 7.85-inch screen size, while delivering the full iPad experience on what ends up being significantly more screen space than an extra .85-inches implies.
Competing 7-inch Android tablets are more akin to large iPod Touches or Android smartphones, offering less sophisticated user interfaces than is possible on devices with larger screens.
Even so, Amazon’s Kindle tablets, Google’s Nexus 7 tablet, those from Samsung and others have been selling, even if individually in numbers nowhere near as great as that for the iPad.
People have liked the idea of 7-inch sized devices ever since the original Android 2.2-based Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0, despite the fact they ran Android rather than the iPod or iPad versions of iOS, many expected that it was only a matter of time before Apple produced an iPad mini of its own.
Fast forward to late 2012, and the fourth generation of iPad is about to be launched in a smaller new size at a smaller new price, expected to start from US $329, and go up to US $659, in 16, 32 and 64GB sizes, both in the standard Wi-Fi only and the separate Wi-Fi, Cellular (3G/4G/LTE/CDMA/GSM) and GPS-equipped models. That means Australian iPad Mini or iPad Air prices will likely be higher, as they usually are - potentially anywhere from AUD $349 to AUD $399 as starting price points - we'll just have to wait and see how generous Apple Australia will be with its pricing model.
Some are hoping the price will start at US $299, quoting a guesstimate iPad Mini minimum build cost of US $195 (not including any other costs but build costs), but Apple does like to ensure healthy margins for the ultimate flexibility, and while $299 is even better than $329 or the higher end $349 price-point that has also been mooted, the rumoured $329 sounds like it’s the compromise between those two points that Apple will go for – rather than going for the jugular with a $299 16GB Wi-Fi only model.
With the iPad 3 slightly heavier than the iPad 2 due to the retina screen and bigger battery, the iPad Mini’s light weight precludes any Retina-class screen for this model – especially when the low cost is also taken into account.
No doubt an iPad Mini with Retina will appear next year at a higher price to keep Apple feature competitive, but this year we also expect to see the iPad Mini to feature more battery life than ever, despite being so thin – but we’ll just have to wait and see on that one how far Apple can push the battery barrier.
There’s also expectations of new Mac Minis and Mac Pros at last, and even a 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina has been mooted, although sadly I’ve heard nothing about an 11.6-inch MacBook Pro with Retina, something I’d certainly be interested in seeing – and even more so if it was a MacPad Air iOS X hybrid with detachable keyboard, although we probably won’t see those until 2013 and 2014 respectively at the earliest.
So… the iPad Mini, or iPad Air, which may yet come in a range of iPod Touch-like colours, is nearly here, along with what could well be stacks of other Macs – just days before Microsoft launches Windows 8 and its Windows RT Surface Tablet.
Apple’s message will be consistent and clear, its app store brimming and cashiers chinging, all its products in place for an all-out retail assault on all of its competitors combined.
Microsoft is struggling in getting the message out that Windows 8 is surprisingly fast to learn and get used to, has all of the good parts of Windows 7 combined with a whole new way of running full screen programs that’s very reminiscent of the way smartphones and tablets work, giving you the best of both worlds.
Microsoft will also struggle with explaining the difference between Windows RT and Windows 8, but they are most definitely surmountable problems that finally see Microsoft back in the game properly at long last, especially coupled with Windows Phone 8.
The problem is that Microsoft is still in catch-up mode, and no matter how much more polished Microsoft’s Windows 8, RT and Phone 8 efforts are, they’re nowhere near as completely and massively integrated as Apple is with its range of iOS devices and smaller iPods, its massive iTunes and App Stores and its Mac computers – which can run Windows XP, Vista, 7 or 8.
Thus Apple is the most prepared for the 2012 end-of-year, Christmas, holiday sales shopping season, and is clearly doing all it can to make 2012 its crunchiest year of sales and profits yet.
On the morning of Wednesday the 24th of October, Australian time, we’ll finally get to see just how right all the rumourmongers were, and from November 2, if not earlier, the annual on-going iFrenzy clocks over into end-of-year super high-gear yet again.
The competition will certainly sell more units too in this busy time of the year, but it really does look like 2012 really will be the year of the iPad yet again!