I, like most, have been perplexed by the persistent rumors that Apple is gearing up to release a third iPad this fall. For those of you who don’t follow the product lineup closely, the iPad 2 was released just earlier this year, so Apple releasing a successor to that product so soon after would be a deviation from their more usual approach of shipping major updates to a product every 1 or 2 years.
This isn’t a replacement for the current iPad; it’s another layer to the product lineup. And like the awkwardly-named iPod Photo from 2004, I bet the iPad Pro is meant to be temporary.
But I disagree about the temporary nature of such a high-end counterpart to the iPad. Apple likes to segment the market and then keep it that way. There are four completely different classes of iPod for sale in the Apple Store, and iPhones that range in price from $49 (with a contract) to $649.00 (unlocked). Mac Minis currently start at $699 while the beefiest Mac Pro starts at $4,999.
Apple’s segmentation seems to achieve the classic goal of taking a little or a lot of the customer’s money, depending on how much they have to spend. But many folks are inspired to buy in at several price-points for a single product line. I own a Mac Mini and a MacBook Pro. An iPod Nano and an iPod touch. An iPhone 4, and, well, my wife takes good care of my iPhone 3G. I also own an iPad. Will I buy an iPad Pro if it comes out this fall? If it puts my iPad 1 to shame (which the iPad 2, frankly, did not), then yes, I’ll probably buy one of those too.
I’ll be surprised if Apple doesn’t take the same approach with iPad that they usually do: the low-end unit is always surprising powerful for the price, but outdone by some whiz-bang innovations at the high end. No, they don’t apply this strategy to all of their products, but this isn’t some hobby for them. As Jony Ive says in a recent commercial, the iPad “defines an entire category.” Let’s see how Apple intends to fill that category out.