Archive for October, 2012

Fine young cannibal

October 19th, 2012 No comments

Analysts are worried that a new iPad mini would cannibalize Apple’s iPad sales. They’re right, of course, but that doesn’t mean there is anything to worry about. Apple is practicing a time honored strategy for successful businesses, both large and small. I call it “Be Your Own Competition.”

For the past two years starting with the Blackberry Playbook, which went nowhere because of its high price to the Kindle Fire which sold like hotcakes as Amazon is more interested in selling content than devices and were comfortably able to subsidize the cost of their products; the market has seen a range of smaller, cheaper, tablets. Apple, meanwhile, has stood on the sidelines, insisting that a smaller interface doesn’t really bring about the advantages of a tablet at all.

I’ve finally spent some time on an iPad and, I have to begrudgingly admit that I agree. The size of the screen is part of the interface. Games and applications take on a different level of interactivity simply by offering more room than on a smartphone. Unfortunately, this doesn’t make me want to own an iPad. It’s too expensive and still can’t do what a notebook can do for me, and worse, the size makes it just too ungainly to use in a truly portable fashion like, say, I used to use my Newton (stop laughing).

I travelled recently with an iPad, attempting to replace a guidebook with this single device that could also help to book hotels. I needn’t have worried so much about looking ostentatious as many people seem to think that iPad actually makes a good camera; holding up this giant slab in front of monuments and looking utterly ridiculous. It worked well enough that I doubt I’ll be bringing paper guide books along in the future, but the iPad was still too big to tote around or to whip out during a walking tour.

The larger interface is nice, the size is right, for many things, but I am still not going to buy one. But an iPad mini? That could truly be the crossover between feature-poor, does one thing super well, e-book readers, and feature-rich, does loads of stuff super well but cost more and are too big tablets.

Of course, these products exist already such as the aforementioned Fire and the Google Nexus. Which brings us to Apple’s problem. Releasing an iPad mini will, indeed, likely cannibalize sales of their iPads (and iPod touches) and worse, competing with the existing market will do damage to Apple’s enviably high margins, but who better to steal your sales away than yourself?

When you’re thinking of your next product and wondering if it will cannibalize your market, ask yourself if someone isn’t already trying to do that already. It’s much better to be your own competition than to let someone else do it.

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