Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
SAN JOSE, CA - OCTOBER 23: Apple Senior Vice President Phil Schiller announces the new iPad Mini. It's smaller and lighter and $329 for a 16GB WiFi-only version. And it arrives just in time for the holidays!
Apple is currently rolling out some new products in San Francisco. So far, we've seen a new MacBook Pro and a thinner and sexier iteration of the iMac, which is just another word for "planned obsolescence" in Apple-land.
But the main event is yet to come: A smaller iPad, about 8 inches in size, called "iPad Mini."
Unlike the iPhone 5, which prior to launch I argued was doomed — DOOMED! — the iPad Mini/Air/Junior/Deuce/Whatever could succeed wildly. Here's why...
Apple owns the tablet market, so it's no big deal to steal share from itself. Apple has sold 100 million iPads in the two years since its introduction. As I and others have pointed out, there is no tablet market. There's an iPad market. However, since the arrival of the Kindle Fire and now the Microsoft Surface, there is some pressure on Cupertino. iPad Mini naysayers argue that a smaller, cheaper tablet will cannibalize the Big Boy. Probably true. But the thing is, Apple can afford to cannibalize the iPad, with a base iPad Mini that's $329 in the 16 GB WiFi-only version. And if it steals some lower-end market share from Amazon ... well, there's nothing wrong with that.
The word on Amazon's event this morning at the Santa Monica Airport (held an eerie blue-lit hanger) was that the company wouldn't introduce a bigger Kindle Fire, the highly successful tablet that represents the only real challenge to the Apple iPad in the tablet market. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos flouted that expectation, unveiling a new Kindle Fire HD, a high-definition version of the device, with an 8.9-inch display.
It will cost $299, in a 16GB configuration with 3G wireless. And it will benefit from integration with all of Amazon's cloud-based data services. Really, that's the main difference between what Amazon is selling with the Kindle Fire and what Apple has in the market with the iPad — and Bezos relentlessly if not overtly kept the focus there, an unusual yet predictable tactic at en event intended to create excitement about new hardware.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos introduces Kindle Fire last September. What new forms will the device take? We'll probably find out tomorrow in L.A.
All Amazon has done is invite the media to an event at a hanger at the Santa Monica airport tomorrow morning. But chances are pretty good that we're going to be seeing some tablets. This won't be like the similarly mysterious Microsoft event in June at which we were introduced to the technology giant's first-ever ready-for-market tablet, Surface. Amazon already has Kindles and Kindle Fires. So what are we likely to see?
Q: Will we get a bigger Kindle Fire?
A: Nope. CNET already reported that a Kindle Fire Big isn't in Amazon's immediate future. Rather, the company will be updating the current Kindle Fire with a new model and introducing a second model. Both will be 7-inch tablets.
Q: Does it really make sense for Amazon to treat this as a media event?
A: Apple has an iPad Mini and the new iPhone 5 coming soon. The iPad Mini will hit in October and the iPhone arrives this month. Microsoft just planted its stake with Surface and then there are all the Android tablets that aren't Kindle Fires (which is built on Android but customized for Amazon). Amazon needs to stay in the game here.
Photo by pablofalv via Flickr Creative Commons
E-books cost more here.
Apple and a couple of holdout publishers have been hit by a Department of Justice lawsuit accusing them of colluding to fix e-book prices at a level higher than Amazon's flat $9.99 rate for the Kindle reader and other devices. The practice, which was allegedly timed to happen when the original iPad was released, allowed publishers to set the price at as much as $14.99, with Apple taking its customary 30 percent cut.
The government's lawsuit, filed in Manhattan federal court, described CEO-only meetings of publishers at which the alleged conspiracy was hashed out. The suit alleged that the publishers' chief executives met starting in September 2008 or earlier "in private dining rooms of upscale Manhattan restaurants" and "no legal counsel was present at any of these meetings."
The suit describes the shift from the traditional "wholesale" pricing model, under which retailers set the price of both electronic and physical books, to an "agency" model under which publishers set the price and retailers take a commission.
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - MARCH 07: Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks during an Apple product launch event at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts on March 7, 2012 in San Francisco, California. In the first product release following the death of Steve Jobs, Apple Inc. introduced the third version of the iPad and an updated Apple TV. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
The much-anticipated Apple iPad event today continues a worrisome trend for the company. The iPhone 4S launched last year, and it's main new feature was the Siri voice-interface. Now the updated iPad arrives — it's unclear whether we can call it the iPad 3, but we will anyway — and the big news is that the 4G version will cost $829, and that the older base iPad 2 will go on sale for $399.
So there's new. But where's the new new? It will have to wait for the true iPad 3. And the iPhone 5. Perhaps.
The newest iPad will be capable of operating on a high-speed 4G "LTE" or Long-Term Evolution network. At speeds roughly 10 times faster than current 3G technology, that may help banish the sometimes shaky video quality of older devices.
Apple is betting a 4G-equipped iPad will tempt more U.S. consumers to pay extra for higher-quality video on the go. That, in turn, should give Verizon Wireless and AT&T Inc a revenue boost, analysts say.
Until now, buyers have been reluctant to shell out extra cash even for iPads with slower 3G connections. The cheaper Wi-Fi-only model - with much more limited Web access - is by far Apple's top-selling one today.