By Matt Burns
Apple (AAPL) has as a little event on the books next Wednesday. Maybe you heard about it. The iPad 3, with its high-res screen, is said to launch on that day. But there could be more surprises. Several “one more things,” if you will. Get out your salt shakers.
Digitimes is stating this morning through two separate reports that Apple plans on announcing an 8GB iPad 2 along with the iPad 3. Citing unnamed upstream supply chain source, one report states the 8GB model would allow the iPad to hit different segments “and to defend against Windows 8-based tablet PCs” — something Apple shouldn’t have to worry about until the fall.
But this move, if it’s true, is classic Apple. It makes perfect sense and is a move that runs parallel with a popular theory at TC HQ in which Apple is not replacing the iPad 2 next Wednesday, but rather adding a high-res model to the still-successful iPad 2 product line.
You see, Apple likes to make money, and the iPad 2 is still selling like gangbusters even though it’s almost a year old. Plus, if rumors are to be believed, the iPad 3 will look a lot like the iPad 2 — well, externally at least. The iPad 3, if that’s its name, is more like a supercharged iPad 2; it’s an iPhone 4S.
Even though the two models will likely use different internal components, the similar physical design should allow for a similar manufacturing process. This is the expensive part of making a gadget. Apple’s manufacturing partners might be able to produce both tablets without a major retooling allowing Apple to pad its manufacturing revenue margins even more. It’s then up to Apple’s star marketing team to sell the public on two, seemingly competing iPad models.
Another plausible theory involves the education market. By reducing the size of the flash memory, in theory, the overall cost of the iPad should drop, allowing Apple to sell it at a lower price. Digitimes says $300-$350. But in 2012 flash memory isn’t a major cost. And, given the interactive iBooks’ physical size, an 8GB iPad would only hold one or two digital textbooks.
Digitimes is also reporting that Apple is set to begin production on a 7.85-inch iPad around the third quarter. This model is reportedly to be sold for $200-$250.
As with most early Apple reports, these claims are simply unverified rumors. Digitimes has the tendency of publishing a wide number of reports on Apple, seemingly hoping a few will come true. But these two seem likely. Apple will not kill a product that is still making money, and it’s only a matter of time until Apple caves to popular demand and releases a smaller iPad. But, you know, take these with a pinch of salt — and then throw that salt over your shoulder and hope they come true.