With Apple’s iPad 3 unveiling event now officially set for March 7, more iPad rumors are trickling in and Apple’s plans in the tablet space for 2012 are beginning to crystallize.
Earlier this morning, Digitimes reported that Apple, in addition to releasing 16 and 32GB versions of the iPad 3, will also offer an 8GB iPad 2. While Digitimes’ track record with respect to Apple rumors can often be spotty, their report echoes similar reports which we’ve seen surface over the past few weeks.
In addition to iPad 3, Apple is also expected to unveil an 8GB iPad 2, allowing the tablet PC series to cover different segments and to defend against Windows 8-based tablet PCs, the sources noted.
Since Apple has put high hopes on its new iPad 3 and has been aggressively placing orders, iPad 3 shipments in the first quarter of 2012 are expected to double from original estimates.
Again, this isn’t the first we’ve heard of Apple potentially keeping the iPad 2 in their product lineup. A report from few weeks ago relayed that Apple wasn’t cancelling its iPad 2 display shipments, but rather, was merely decreasing them. And back in early January, the typically reliable Jason Horwitz of iLounge said that Apple was going to keep the iPad 2 around alongside the iPad 3, albeit at a lower pricepoint.
In doing so, Apple could presumably offer the 8GB iPad 2 for $399, providing a cheaper buy-in pricepoint for the iPad and stave off efforts from the seemingly popular Amazon Kindle Fire and an expected onslaught of Windows 8 tablets as well. This is essentially the same strategy Apple employed when it released a $99 iPhone 4 alongside its new iPhone 4S this past October.
This type of strategy make a whole lot of sense in that it would lessen the price advantage cheaper tablets currently have over the iPad. And what’s more, an iPad 2 with only 8GB of storage would allow Apple to maintain it’s healthy margins in the process. Some have even speculated that the 8GB iPad 2 will be marketed as the iPad 2S.
As for features we can expect to see on the iPad 3, a Retina Display is at this point a guarantee while some other rumored features include the addition of an HD camera and 4G LTE support. The form factor is expected to be the same, albeit with the iPad 3 being just a tad thicker than its predecessor.
One last point – a cheaper iPad 2 isn’t a reaction to dwindling marketshare. Indeed, iPad sales have never been stronger with Apple moving 15.4 million units in the most recent holiday quarter. Rather, Apple’s strategy with a cheaper iPad 2 is a preventative measure to keep any competing tablets from even getting any breathing room.
During Apple’s most recent earnings conference call, CEO Tim Cook was overtly dismissive about competing tablets like the Kindle Fire, noting that “people feel great when they pay from their wallet, but when they get home and use the device, the joy is gone.”