Two reasons Apple might make its own iPad keyboard cover

Two reasons Apple might make its own iPad keyboard cover

Summary: Accessories for mobile devices generate big revenue, and a keyboard is a must-have accessory for business users of tablets. You can do the math on Apple's next big accessory for the iPad.

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TOPICS: Mobility, Apple
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Image: Apple

As part of the refresh of its iPad lineup on Tuesday, Apple reportedly could release a new Smart Cover that includes an integrated keyboard. That would be a welcome development for many business professionals, albeit one that likely comes with a premium price tag. However, Apple is not going to let accessory makers walk away with all the revenue from this high-end add-on forever, and it's also not going to want to stand by and get out-innovated by Microsoft on this front.

In light of Microsoft Surface's recent struggles, it's easy forget to what a tizzy the tech press made about the Surface when Microsoft first announced it. I was skeptical because I had covered the highs and lows of Microsoft's Tablet PC debacle during the previous decade, but the one thing about the Surface that blew me away was the keyboard cover. I called it the most innovative thing about Microsoft's homespun tablet. 

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While Surface sales have been slow and the product reviews have been tepid at best, the Surface's Touch Cover has been almost universally praised (the Type Cover isn't bad, either). In fact, every person I know who actually uses and likes a Microsoft Surface tablet uses it with a Type Cover (or Touch Cover) and praises the keyboard cover as one of the product's most important features. These are all business professionals and most are former iPad owners. 

Of course, there are many third-party keyboards for the iPad from leading accessory makers like Logitech, Kensington, and Belkin. Apple even carries some of them in its stores. Even though none of these keyboards are as good as Microsoft's Touch Cover for the Surface, there are far more of them sold than the Microsoft keyboard covers.

James Kendrick and Harry McCracken have written extensively about using the iPad as a laptop replacement by pairing it with a keyboard. Their experiences reflect a lot of what I've heard from professionals who love using the iPad as a primary computing device and not just for reading and viewing content. However, I've been seeing the Microsoft Surface Pro started to win converts among some of these users (especially those with ties to backend Microsoft systems). But, the integrated keyboard cover is one of the main attractions that these users cite for making the switch.

If Apple were to release its own innovative keyboard cover, that could certainly help it retain some of these business professionals who were among the iPad's earliest adopters but are now being tempted by solutions like the Surface and the Asus Transformer. 

Last month I was discussing this with my London colleague Charles McLellan and predicting that Apple was overdue to release its own keyboard cover for the iPad, and we both agreed that Apple isn't going to stand by forever and watch accessory-makers gobble up all the profits from what has turned out to be a highly-lucrative iPad add-on. Microsoft's Touch Cover retails for $79 ($129 for the Type Cover) while the keyboard cases for the iPad range from a $29 to $129 retail price. Since Apple always charges a premium for its branded accessories, we should expect an Apple keyboard cover to cost at least $99 to $149. 

In 2012, Apple made over $2.5 billion in net sales from accessories. That's up from about $1 billion in 2006. It's no secret that the accessories market has high profit margins. While the brutal competition in the smartphone, tablet, and computer markets keep prices in check and can eat into company profits, accessory prices vary widely and are driven by fashion and branding. Materials costs are typically low for accessories and a brand like Apple can charge a premium, although the company often takes this to an extreme with its own branded cables and cases costing twice as much as third party products, for example. 

With the iPhone 5c and the iPhone 5s, Apple has returned to selling its own smartphone cases again (for $29 and $39). The company is already selling its popular Smart Cover for the iPad, ranging from $39 to $69. Through its retail and online stores, Apple also sells $79 and $99 Logitech keyboards for the iPad. With the announcement of the 2013 iPad line on Tuesday, don't be surprised to see Apple attempt to innovate the tablet keyboard and grab a piece of this lucrative accessory market with a premium solution. 

Whatever Apple announces on Tuesday, ZDNet will have it covered from every angle that matters to business professionals.  If there are any other subplots in the iPad drama that are especially interesting to you, post in the comments below to let us know.

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Topics: Mobility, Apple

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47 comments
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  • Here is another two

    Apple might make its own iPad keyboard cover because....
    Owl`Net
  • Here is another two reasons

    Apple might make its own iPad keyboard cover because....

    1. Surface 2 is a million times better than iPad

    2. Surface Pro makes iPad and OSX devices too crappy.

    and

    All Windows 8/8.1 devices are better than OSx / iOS.
    Owl`Net
    • No one likes a troll.

      Fly back to your forest.
      ForeverCookie
    • Re: Surface 2 is a million times better than iPad

      You might be correct.

      For every 1 million iPads sold, one Surface 2 is purchased. It is that good!
      danbi
      • Response of the month

        Excellent! Owl'net sounds like he's about to turn 10 years old any day now.
        Luke Skywalker
        • Don't you have something better to do?

          Unless you yourself are 10, I don't think that stalking prepubescent children is a healthy career choice.
          ForeverCookie
      • And for every Owl'Net...

        ... there's another equal, but opposite troll like you.

        And people wonder why the report function gets abused so much...
        ForeverCookie
        • Yes

          I was wondering that about you too. Pls reread OwlNet's comment. That is a troll statement. If you can;t see that, you are a troll too :)
          ThinkFairer8
          • All of you are...

            Lib id10ts. Because owl has an opinion you do not like or is extremely one-sided, you call him a troll.

            Use a surface longer than 15mintues and realize how much better it is. This is coming from an apple fan boy. I love the iPad, but that was for surfing the web and books. I do not need to sling birds.

            When I got this surface RT from a class I took, I realized tablets CAN be used for work. O-M-G. The iPad cannot in my opinion be used as well as a surface for work.
            All tablets can please people at home.

            They all share the same games, same crap.

            When you are productive with your tablet and not just consuming information, then it is a great tablet.

            The biggest complaint I have about surface is last night I was at the bowling alley and I had a score keeping app installed I used to keep track of scores and averages and a friend asked a question about it I went to get on the internet...dang it, no Wi-Fi. Surface has no 3g/4g. That sucks. Surface just got relegated to work from now on.

            So just beacuase someone has an opinion does not mean you should invalidate what he is saying.
            bin00010111
          • The facts

            Invalidate what Owlnet says. They always have.
            athynz
        • Re: And for every...

          You know, Sir Newton has formulated this long, long ago. But, if you need refreshing your memory
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newton%27s_laws_of_motion, third law.

          There is a balance in this Universe. More stupidity, produces more wisdom -- just not at the same location.

          If you can't tolerate different view points, it is wise to stop visiting public forums.
          danbi
        • you sound like

          a parent of Owl'Net. I am sorry that your boy/girl has made a mistake of exposing her/himself to the real world. Maybe you should install those nice parental controls and let him/her watch only the mind-numbing Disney cartoons until he/she turns 25 and is finally ready to take charge.
          pupkin_z
    • You might want to ask Surface RT users about the effectiveness

      of their devices.

      Oh, hang on, there's almost no Surface RT users because there are 6 million devices gathering dust in an MS warehouse. As for the handful that bought an RT, MS managed to brick most of those devices with their latest "update".
      1,2,3
      • As a Surface RT owner ...

        ... I get GREAT utility from my device and was able to update my SurfaceRT running the 8.1 preview to 8.1RTM with no issues whatsoever - took about 45 mins from start to finish.

        Sorry ... don't let me distract you ... and don't let actual facts get in the way ... continue ...
        bitcrazed
        • So, in other words

          because you own a Surface RT and like it, that somehow means that there really aren't 6 million Surface RT sitting in a warehouse and it apparently your ownership and like of a Surface RT means that the Surface RT owners whose devices are bricked are lying even though MS has admitted to the problem. /sarcasm

          To put it bluntly, there is absolutely no nexus between my comments and your response! You certainly didn't let the facts stop you from making a completely irrelevant comment.
          1,2,3
          • So he's wrong because you say he is?

            Now, do you feel special about that?

            You asked the RT users to come forward, so he did.

            And then, the last part of your comment involved some lie about 8.1 bricking most Surfaces, when it in fact, only affected some users.

            Afterwards, you call his comment irrelevant, when it is in fact, completely relevant to what you said.

            Pretty much everything you spouted was FUD and stupi- erm, nonsense.
            ForeverCookie
        • Re: and was able to update my SurfaceRT

          First, I must say that I understand how you feel. Been there, done that.
          Some call it the Stockholm syndrome.

          But, can you imagine, with other computing devices people are not proud of being able to upgrade, or otherwise babysit their things. Or being fascinated you can do things you already do on your desktop. They are proud of the devices letting them do things they would not do before that. They are proud of their devices just staying out of their way, so that they can devote their time for more useful things. Time is the only thing you can never, ever buy in this world.

          Computers exist to support people in what they do, not the other way around.
          There is no surprise the company that was making the Tamagotchi went out of business. They can hardly compete with anything from Microsoft!
          danbi
    • If ALL

      Windows 8/8.1 devices are so much better then why the fire sale? Come on Owlnet answer the question and then get back to your fryer!
      athynz
  • I doubt it

    I've tried using keyboards on my Ipad before and it's a pretty unimpressive experience. It becomes quickly apparent that iOS isn't designed currently for this e.g. no trackpad support.

    For now, I will stick with my MacBook Air 13" for typing, and an iPad Mini 2 with Retina! :)
    epyx
    • I've been using a keyboard case and iPad for 3 years

      it does the job well enough.
      1,2,3