Since being released last October, the iPad Mini has become Apple’s top-seller, offering a much lower $329 starting price without sacrificing margins too badly. But the original Mini was criticized for a low resolution display (163 PPI) — around half of what competitors like Google’s Nexus 7 offer for $100 less than the iPad Mini.
If Apple doesn’t address the display shortcoming, the new iPad Mini could bomb. At the same time, there are worries that a Retina display iPad Mini could face supply constraints. The iPad Mini could also get that A7 processor and a better camera, and there are calls to boost its RAM (the current 512MB is half the full-sized iPad’s and a quarter of most Android tablets) for better performance.
Wildcards include new color options (the Space Gray introduced with the iPhone 5S has been spotted, while some insist Apple will trot out gold iPads as well) and the possibility that Apple may include the new iPhone’s fingerprint sensor to help give its tablets a unique selling feature over the competition.
Don’t look for price drops on either of the iPad models — Apple likes to keep its margins high and, despite declining marketshare, is hoping the upgrades will be enough to boost sales without having to resort to competing on price.
As for everything else, it only makes sense that Apple will be rolling out MacBook Pros featuring Intel’s (INTC) power-saving Haswell chips — the MacBook Air line was already upgraded earlier this year, so this is a no-brainer. We should also see a release date for the made-in-America Mac Pro (announced in June) and availability of Mavericks, the newest version of Apple’s OSX PC operating system.
Of course, everybody is watching the Apple TV closely. Apple faces increased competition for its “hobby” streaming TV set-top box from the likes of Google’s $35 Chromecast and others. A smaller, cheaper Apple TV is a possibility to goose holiday sales and hold people over while they wait for the mythical Apple television.
Or, Apple could make life interesting for Nintendo (NTDOY) as well as Sony (SNE) and Microsoft by pulling the trigger on enabling gaming on the AppleTV. That would throw some unexpected competition into the Xbox One and PlayStation4 launches.
The full-sized iPad is important as a flagship device, and a significant upgrade will bring in new customers as well as hordes of existing iPad owners looking to upgrade to the latest and greatest — that alone may be enough to move the APPL ticker. Meanwhile, retailers and analysts are predicting the iPad Mini could be the top-selling gadget this Christmas.
If Apple gets it right with the iPad Mini and doesn’t run into shortages, this holiday quarter could be a very good one indeed. A game-playing AppleTV is a long shot, but could be the surprise announcement that launches a new (and lucrative) living room business for the company.
As of this writing, Brad Moon did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.