New iPad: Not a major update? Of course not!

Pundits are upset that the new iPad wasn't a more "game-changing" upgrade than it is. Good business practice makes such a major refresh not only unnecessary, but risky.
Written by James Kendrick, Contributor

While millions of us are waiting for the FedEx person to bring us our new iPads, pundits are flinging pixels all over the web complaining that Apple has let us down (the again is implied). These experts are railing that a refresh of a major product like the iPad should be radical, game-changing even. These folks must not understand good business is what I think.

When the new iPad was announced recently, I thought it over and determined that Apple had done the upgrade just right to meet its objectives. The goal with the new iPad being to add value to the product line, without risking upsetting potential buyers. Go ahead and read my article, I'll wait here for you to get back.

Read: The iPad success story -- giving us what we want again

Welcome back. Now you have an understanding of what has turned Apple into one of the most successful businesses of all time. Ignore the fact that the Retina Display turns the new iPad into the highest resolution device in your house, no matter who you are. Overlook the insane battery life that makes the new iPad the longest running device over LTE connections, ever.

Yes, concentrate instead on the fact that Apple has added a good value to the new iPad over previous models, while keeping the price the same. That's just enough incentive to get owners of the iPad 2 to seriously consider upgrading, but not enough to make some pass on the new one without feeling bad about it.

The objective of any company with a wildly successful product should be to keep pushing the envelope in subtle ways, without risking upsetting the huge existing market. If you're like me you can remember far too many times in the past when a company has refreshed one of your favorite products, and with a radical change (or two) turned the new one into a product you would never buy.

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This has been a common occurrence in the laptop space. I can't remember how many times a company has refreshed a great laptop by making radical changes to the new model in a misguided effort to best itself. The changes end up infuriating otherwise happy existing customers, insuring they will not buy the new one. This risky business decision makes no sense on any level, as the older model was already successful in the market.

I don't see Apple ever doing that with a wildly successful product like the iPad. It not only carries the risk of alienating prospective buyers, but it makes the group of happy customers lose trust in the product line. A good incremental update like executed with the new iPad keeps that happy group firmly in Apple's camp. If they were willing to buy the iPad last week, they are even more willing to buy the new one this week. Mission accomplished.

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