A new iPad line: iPad Pro, in September. I’ve been thinking about this for quite some time. Why would Apple announce another iPad in September only a few months after the iPad 2 started shipping? Demand for the iPad 2 continues to be strong and there seems to be an A5 supply issue that is preventing Apple from building more. Wouldn’t Apple jeopardize iPad 2 sales with another update just about three months from now?
I can come up with three reasons. One is the fact that the iPad isn’t tethered to a two-year agreement like the iPhone. There are one-year agreements and others pay full price for the iPhone for a month-to-month experience, but for the majority of us wen choose to get the cheapest price upfront and then be stuck with it for two years. Unlike the iPhone, you’re not stuck with the iPad. On the contrary: there is a strong used marketplace that will gladly pay good money for your older iPad. So, if Apple comes out with another iPad in September sales for the new as well as the old will be strong. In fact the new iPad will ignite demand for the now cheaper iPad 2.
The second reason I can think of is Apple might branch the iPad line into two by adding a Pro line. The Pro line will differ from the non-Pro line in one big regard: a Retina Display. The much anticipated 9.7-inch IPS LCD with 2048×1536 pixels. I am not certain but the added cost for a 9.7-inch Retina Display would make it difficult, if not impossible, to offer an iPad equipped with such a display starting at $499. And if a new iPad can’t be offered at $499, that would be disastrous for Apple. That would be seen by many to indicate that Apple can’t hack it anymore. With the unlikelihood of a $499 Retina Display-equipped iPad I think the chances of an iPad Pro that starts at maybe $599 are good.
Right now there are two features that distinguish each version of the iPad: storage and 3G chips. Storage can be a differentiator now because flash technology is still very expensive. When costs come down it would look funny to have different models based on how much storage the iPad has. Instead of different versions storage will just become an option. The other differentiating feature is 3G, whether it connects to a CDMA network or a GSM. This will also wither away when Apple uses a chip that can connect to either networks. Eventually, whether it will be this very next iteration of the iPad or the one after that, the main feature that distinguishes iPad versions will be the display. That’s the third reason for an iPad Pro.
The iPad Pro would also be the iPad where Apple pushes the envelope. And when costs drop Apple can implement the changes into the non-Pro iPad and continue offering incredible bang for buck with a starting price of $499. This strategy would also make it even more difficult for the competition. For these reasons, I think Apple will bifurcate the iPad line by introducing an iPad Pro this September.