Apple’s Reputation is On The Line

Later today Apple is expected to announce a 7.85 inch iPad Mini. While Steve Jobs infamously said that 7-inch tablets are DOA, Apple is feeling the squeeze from the Kindle Fire and the Nexus 7. Apple has to pull this off in a big way. Their brand image is at stake.

Once the darling child of the tech world, Apple’s design and innovation has begun to stale as of late. No longer seen as the hottest thing in tech, and consistently disappointing fans, Apple is a victim of its own success. Each and every Apple event since the passing of Steve Jobs has been less exciting than the last. Tim Cook is a business man, not a visionary.  Jony Ive? He’s only as good as the next Braun electric Razor. (No seriously, stop reading this post and check out that last link I posted. The similarities are uncanny. Then come back.)

Now where was I? Apple’s design has gotten stale. Of all the mobile manufacturers out there, Nokia and Asus make the most beautiful products. Even the Microsoft Surface is a better looking tablet than the iPad. iOS 6 is a safe stable design. It’s one that is so easy that even my 15 month-old daughter can figure it out. It looks and feels like it was designed by Fisher-Price. For all their innovation, Apple is still firmly planted in the 1990’s. Static icons and everything.

The iPad Mini (or whatever Apple calls it) is a sign that Apple is feeling the pressure. No longer can Apple simply be content to make a couple minor updates, claim they are magical and expect people to buy them simply because they are told to do so. Don’t get me wrong, the iPad mini will sell like crazy. But it is the final weezing breaths of capitulating dragon.

If Apple does not sell the iPad Mini at a significantly cheaper price than the regular sized iPad, they are in for a lot of trouble. With the Nexus 7 selling for $199 and a rumored $99 model in the works, the iPad Mini needs to be a very compelling product. Mark my words, if Apple sells the iPad Mini for more than $349, they are in for a world of hurt. This is Amazon and Google’s neighborhood and they are more willing to undercut the market than Apple.

The problem Apple is facing is that they have always presented themselves as the premium product. The people who buy sub $300 tablets are not generally the type of people Apple has ever tried to associate with.   Apple’s ideal customer is young, hip, and has more money than sense. These are the people who can afford to pay extra for a clean, solid design. Pandering to people who care more about price than design is strikingly un-Apple.  On the one hand, the market is forcing them to respond to the 7-inch segment. On the other hand, Apple’s brand will start to be associated with products that are less expensive. I don’t see how Apple can possibly maintain their killer margins and still sell a compelling 7-inch tablet for less than $349.

Apple is beginning to stale. They need a new designer and they need a new design direction. A 7-inch tablet is a business decision, pure and simple. The long short of it is, be prepared to be disappointed again.

Kenny Larson
Onetime Apple/Android/Windows fanboy. Now a firm agnostic when it comes to OS. They all suck in their own special way.

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