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Wednesday, 11 July 2012 10:46

Apple must produce an iPad killer or $200 piece of junk

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Back in the not too distant past, when questioned about the trend to cheap sub-notebooks, the late Steve Jobs famously said that Apple would not know how to make a $500 piece of junk. Instead, Apple gave us the groundbreaking iPad. Now with sub-$200 tablets springing forth like the proverbial waters of the Nile, Apple will have to rethink its iPad strategy.

 

Most of us who paid $700 plus for an iPad do not begrudge spending the money. There was nothing else like it on the market and some of us remember the days 28 years ago when we were prepared to pay nearly $5000 (in 1984 dollars!) for a Mac or PC.

As we all know, desktop and notebook computers, like mobile phones, are now commodities that can be purchased for a few hundred dollars and swapped for a new model every year or two. Apple Macs have a bit more staying power and some resale value, so they cost more. But even Macs have limited shelf life and are priced accordingly.

Those who refuse to learn from history are doomed to repeat it, so based on past history tablets are destined to become the newest commodity - and a tech commodity necessarily comes with a low enough price tag that it can be replaced every year or two.

If we are to believe Microsoft, by next year tablets will outsell desktop PCs. I'll go further than that - I reckon tablets may even outsell notebook PCs next year. I was at a business meeting a couple of weeks ago and there wasn't a notebook PC - or paper notebook for that matter - in sight. Everyone around the table had an iPad.

So why would anyone ditch an iPad for a competitor's tablet? Right now they wouldn't. However, if a $199 tablet springs on the scene offering similar functionality for a fraction of the price, watch would be iPad buyers race for the exits of the Apple Stores.

Two potential iPad competitors - Google Nexus 7 and Amazon Kindle Fire - priced in the sub $200 range are due to hit the market and both have got the rumour mills working overtime.

Word has it that these commodity priced tablets will offer stunningly good value for their low price tags, including advanced implementations of Android, complete with high-res screens, front cameras and the like.

In addition, both the new Amazon and Google tablets will also offer tight seamless integration with their own suites of popular products such as the Amazon store and their respective storage offerings.

All this spells bad news for Apple's iPad roadmap, unless that roadmap includes the release of a new low cost model - or a new advanced device that makes current tablets obsolete.

If Apple chooses the low cost route it would be a rapid departure from the company's long standing philosophy of focussing on quality rather than selling cheap products. Other than that, the only choice for Apple is to produce its own iPad killer.

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Stan Beer

 

Stan Beer co-founded iTWire in 2005. With 30 plus years of experience working in IT and Australian technology media, Beer has published articles in most of the IT publications that have mattered, including the AFR, The Australian, SMH, The Age, as well as a multitude of trade publications.

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