£339 iPad could be per­fect for the ed­u­ca­tion mar­kets

Ap­ple isn’t sell­ing its new low-cost iPad ex­clu­sively to schools, but it could make up some ground lost to Chrome­books ar­gues Ja­son Snell

iPad&iPhone user - - NEWS -

This win­ter has been packed with spec­u­la­tion about the fu­ture di­rec­tions of the iPad prod­uct line, but no­body guessed that 2017’s first iPad an­nounce­ment would be what we saw: an un­ex­pected re­turn of the orig­i­nal iPad line and the dis­con­tin­u­a­tion

of the iPad Air. The move was hardly ex­cit­ing in terms of tech­nol­ogy, but it could prove to be a smart and strate­gic one for the iPad as a whole.

The cu­ri­ous case of the fifth-gen iPad

Lately Ap­ple’s been keep­ing old prod­ucts on its price list, at re­duced prices, in or­der to reach cus­tomers who don’t want (or can’t af­ford) to pay a premium for cutting-edge tech. An ex­cep­tion was last year’s iPhone SE, which rolled a bunch of mod­ern tech into a new, low-priced iPhone.

The new iPad is a lit­tle like the iPhone SE, I sup­pose. It’s a ‘new’ prod­uct that’s made from pieces of tech from pre­vi­ous Ap­ple prod­ucts, rolled to­gether into an iPad that can bear a £339 price tag. It’s not quite cutting edge – its A9 pro­ces­sor is the same as the one found in the iPhone 6s – but it’s a step up from the A8X pro­ces­sor found in the iPad Air 2.

In fact, in many ways the new iPad is a fol­low-up not just to 2012’s fourth-gen­er­a­tion iPad (Ap­ple is call­ing this model the fifth-gen­er­a­tion iPad), or to 2014’s iPad Air 2, but to 2013’s iPad Air. The de­vice’s pro­ces­sor is a ma­jor step up from the orig­i­nal iPad Air, but the two de­vices seem to share the same body, more or less. Like the orig­i­nal iPad Air, the new iPad is thicker and heav­ier than the Air 2, and fea­tures a screen with no lam­i­na­tion or anti-glare coat­ing. (And forget about the P3 colour gamut and true-tone dis­play of the iPad Pro, as well as the Smart Con­nec­tor and Ap­ple Pen­cil sup­port.)

Es­sen­tially, the new iPad is a bit like Ben­jamin But­ton: it’s a case where the iPad Air line is ag­ing back­ward, re­vert­ing to its old name and even a pre­vi­ous screen and in­dus­trial de­sign. In truth, the new iPad ap­pears to be an up­graded

But this isn’t a prod­uct Ap­ple made to ex­cite peo­ple on fea­tures. It’s made to com­pete on price, and Ap­ple com­peted on price by build­ing a new iPad on the base of the iPad Air, with its cheaper screen, cam­eras, and other com­po­nents.

Re­cently there’s been a lot of talk about how Ap­ple has stood by as Chrome­books have be­come in­cred­i­bly suc­cess­ful in the ed­u­ca­tion mar­ket. It’s hard not to see the new iPad as Ap­ple’s di­rect re­ac­tion to those chal­lenges. At £339 (ac­tu­ally less than that, due to ed­u­ca­tion dis­counts), the iPad is at least in the ball­park with Chrome­books, es­pe­cially nicer touch­screen mod­els.

Ap­ple has never been the low-price leader in any mar­ket. Its goal has al­ways been to get within hail­ing dis­tance of the com­pe­ti­tion and then com­pete on qual­ity and long-term value. I’m not sure if this is a swift stroke that solves the com­pet­i­tive bal­ance be­tween iPads and Chrome­books in schools, but it’s def­i­nitely an at­tempt by Ap­ple to be more com­pet­i­tive over­all.

Just as it did with pre­vi­ous iPad an­nounce­ments – Ap­ple seems to have co­or­di­nated with Log­itech on some ac­ces­sory re­leases. It’s no co­in­ci­dence that Log­itech’s new Rugged Combo line is a se­ries of iPad key­boards and cases di­rectly ad­dress­ing the ed­u­ca­tion mar­ket.

If Ap­ple had just wanted to ad­dress the ed­u­ca­tion mar­ket, though, it could’ve an­nounced a spe­cial ed­u­ca­tion edi­tion of the iPad and called it a day. But this new iPad is avail­able for ev­ery­one, and it seems likely that this is an orig­i­nal-model iPad Air. Is it ex­cit­ing to take a three-year-old iPad and up­grade some of its in­ter­nals? No, it’s not. Lower the price, ex­pand the mar­ket

at­tempt by Ap­ple to test out the mar­ket to see if a low­er­cost iPad can help im­prove over­all iPad sales. The new iPad doesn’t need to lead to an avalanche of iPad up­grades from older mod­els. It just needs to ex­ist, a mod­ern (not old) low­priced plain Jane iPad for peo­ple who want a newer model. With its A9 pro­ces­sor, this iPad should be sup­ported by iOS up­grades and app up­dates for years to come.

The aver­age sell­ing price of the iPad has dropped in Ap­ple’s last two fiscal quar­ters, even with the ex­is­tence of the iPad Pro at the high end. This sug­gests that, es­pe­cially dur­ing the hol­i­days, peo­ple were em­brac­ing the low­est­priced iPads in the line. By re­leas­ing a new-ish iPad at £339, Ap­ple’s cater­ing to that de­mand.

It’s a move that may not make tech en­thu­si­asts like you and me ex­cited, but it might sell a lot of iPads. And an in­flux of new iPad pur­chases is just the kind of ex­cite­ment the iPad prod­uct line needs right now.

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