Apple’s new products are all about the competition

To answer my colleague Joe Wilcox’s question, I won’t be buying an iPad mini. I will however, be shelling out on a 4th gen iPad. I already own an iPad 2, and was thinking of upgrading to the 3rd gen version, but I knew an update was likely. Even though Apple only rolled out the most recent iPad in March, there were a few clues that suggested a sooner-than-usual upgrade was on the cards.

Firstly, the Lighting port. On the accessories front alone it’s important for Apple to transition its devices to the new connector as quickly as possible, which means putting it in all of its relevant hardware. Secondly, the 3rd gen iPad gets incredibly hot when doing graphically intensive tasks. The new A6X chip will, I suspect, greatly reduce that problem. Making the iPad faster (while keeping the price the same) will also help position it a little further away from the new mini. However, the main reason for the upgrade is much more straightforward: it kicks the hell out of the competition.

During the iPad portion of yesterday's presentation, Tim Cook told us that Apple's device totally dominates the tablet sector. It’s responsible for 91 percent of tablet web traffic, and 94 percent of Fortune 500 companies use it, he said. And the 3rd gen iPad, released a mere seven months ago, is now Apple’s fastest-selling tablet. The top selling tablet in the world, in fact. Woo-hoo!

But before we got much of a chance to celebrate the new device’s success, Apple’s SVP of Worldwide Marketing, Phil Schiller, turned up on stage and promptly threw it under the bus (sadly only figuratively, there was no actual bus on stage) by rolling out a twice-as-fast newer version. Ouch. "Hey ‘new’ iPad owner -- here’s a quick swift kick to your nether regions, no need to thank us it’s all part of the way we roll".

Making a brand new, hugely successful product obsolete so quickly takes balls, but it was something Apple had to do. Microsoft will launch Surface on Friday and other companies will debut their Windows 8 tablets very shortly, too. Android devices are getting better, and bigger all the time. In short, the tablet market is about to get very crowded, and Apple needs to make sure iPad was the one generating all the headlines and sales.

The iPad mini is, of course, all about reacting to what is already out there. Allowing Apple to go head to head with its biggest rivals -- not on price, but on size. Regular people know what an iPad is. They don’t know what a Nexus 7 is. Put the two devices in a shop side by side, and customers will likely buy the iPad mini. Yes, sure, it’s slightly more expensive, but it’s better to buy a name you know isn’t it? The screen is bigger, and you’re clearly getting a better product, the real deal…

During the presentation, Phil Schiller repeatedly bashed the Nexus 7. Although he didn’t actually name it he showed us the tablet next to the iPad mini, told us how using it wasn’t "a great experience", talked about its inferior screen size and how the device was thicker and made of -- spit, spit -- plastic. Most importantly of all, he pointed out that the Android tablet's apps were just scaled up mobile phone ones, not proper dedicated tablet apps, like the iPad mini has. It was a good old fashioned kicking, and a well-timed one.

Apple knows it has a fight on its hands if it hopes to maintain its market dominance, and yesterday we saw just how hard, and how ruthless, it’s prepared to be to stay on top.

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