Is Apple Losing It?

Strange behavior follows the big announcement – would Steve have done it this way? I think not.

As a Mac shop, we follow all Apple announcements with great interest, and this week (see the three press releases dated 10/23/12 at Apple's Media site) was no exception. First, I suppose, a comment on the iPad mini is in order. OK, here goes: yawn. This was pretty much as expected, although I guessed the price would be $299. The actual price, at $329, is an acknowledgement that Apple remains the premium, destination, and aspirational brand for those non-technical consumers we used to call yuppies. It's sold out already (more marketing at work there; see below), but I'd still encourage someone interested in such a device to consider the Nexus 7 from Google. I can't really see any advantages for the iPad mini over the Nexus 7, apart from the operating environment (personal preference, although Android as of 4.2 is really, really good now) and marketing inertia. And you can save $80 with Google.

But what's really curious was the iMac announcement. If you visit Apple's iMac site, you'll notice that the "Buy Now" button is gone, as are the previous models. You can still buy a refurbished iMac (I suspect these are new and just being blown out, albeit at less-than-significant discounts), but you can't get the new ones for a few more weeks. All that coolness going to waste, at least for now.

Farpoint Group never, ever recommends announcing a product until it can ship in volume, so as to avoid making people wait for reasons other than any real limitations on manufacturing capacity due to truly unanticipated demand (as opposed to what I suspect is up with the iPad Mini, creating demand through artificial scarcity). To do otherwise is to cut into revenue, irritate those who can't wait to get their hands on the latest and greatest (this positively defines a huge chunk of Apple users), and generally look silly. OK, this announcement overall was motivated by Microsoft's Windows 8 thrust of this week, but that's no excuse to look like a desperate follower rather than a leader. Given that Microsoft's Surface tablet started shipping this week, the iPad mini announcement was a good move. But the new iMac should have been pushed off until the products can ship.

As for me, there's a new Mac mini (why did they give the iPad the same name? Ah, confusion, right out of Microsoft's book...) and a 13-inch retina-display MacBook Pro in my future, with the mini replacing an aging (2007) mini and an aging (2008) iMac, and the MacBook Pro replacing a MacBook Air (slightly more weight, but much more screen and processor). Unlike many Apple customers, though, we don't buy on impulse around here and the plan says it will be early December before we can do this. I can wait - but can Apple? While the product remains interesting if not intriguing, the iMac announcement looks ill-conceived. Steve most certainly would not have approved.

And, as for Surface, I'm going to wait for the Windows 8 Pro version, and, as is always the case with Windows around here, for Lab use only.

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