What if Apple (AAPL) threw a product release party and no one cared? That's a question the company hopes it won't have to answer today when they hold a special event in San Jose, CA. It's expected that Apple will release a new 7.85-inch iPad Mini along with a revamped MacBook Pro and possibly a slightly newer version of the most recent iPad.
The iPad Mini will compete directly with products from Amazon (AMZN) and Google (GOOG), making this a curious case where Apple is playing catchup, if only in terms of form factor. If the anticipation is running low, Eric Jackson of IronFire Capital says that's only because people are confusing flash with cash.
"This is the only company making money from tablets," Jackson says in the attached video. If Apple has the supply chain and installed base to make money in hardware where others fail Jackson says the real question is why they wouldn't do it. The mini is going to be a huge deal in Asia and will take decent share from the Kindle right away. If done right the mini may actually kill Barnes & Noble (BKS) entirely, given the company's limited resources.
All roads lead to iTunes, the content bazaar that forms the center of the Apple eco-system. Whether or not Apple makes money from selling mini's is almost irrelevant given the $2 billion a quarter it rakes in from iTunes. Another product that gets people downloading games and music is nothing but upside as Jackson sees it.
The truth is Apple's act is getting just a little stale. The company has spoiled users and shareholders for so long that it's running out of ways to keep the show fresh. iTunes is being revamped, Apple radio may or may not be brought up to speed, and iCloud is interesting but none of it is on the bleeding edge of "cool."
Apple has earned its unofficial status as the World's Best Company but it's at a crossroads. Option 1 is operating to maximize their massive cash flows from the iTunes and device markets, dominating market share but content to "tweak" rather than innovate. Option 2 is continuing to redefine markets and product segments, destroying everything in their path along the way.
An iPad Mini will be successful but it's little more than a form-factor adjustment. For Apple to prove it's better days remain ahead the company, it will eventually have to unveil yet another Next Big Thing.
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