There’s been a great deal of discussion about “the lag” – the period between Apple announcing the iPad, and Apple selling the iPad.
When the iPhone was released, SJ specifically pointed to the FCC approvals process, one that makes information public in a way a company cannot control. He chose – wisely – to get in front of the story and announce the iPhone himself, in his way, on his terms. It seemed to set a precedent, and, well, here we are again, awaiting shipment of another product which requires FCC approval.
There’s an added wrinkle with the iPad of course: the staggered release of the wifi and wifi + 3G models.
The question I am now let to ponder is whether or not Apple enjoys this lag; both the lag b/t announcing and shipping, as well as the lag b/t the two models. In fact, I wonder if SJ wouldn’t choose to have a lag even if he was introducing a product which did not require FCC approval.
Obviously this is 100% speculation on my part. So with that reminder out of the way…
I think Steve & Co. monitor the entire web/blogosphere for reactions, even more so than with a product they can immediately release. Maybe this is obvious. But let’s explore the opportunities presented by the lag:
1) In general, it allows them to test the waters without actually testing the waters. Like using a thermometer instead of a toe.
2) If they consider the hue and cry over something completely overwhelming, maybe they hustle and release it on shipping devices. Flash and multi-tasking come to mind here. I am okay without either, but would welcome them if available.
3) They can add new features during the lag. YouTube on the iPhone comes to mind here.
4) They can adjust price (downward only of course). There was a WSJ article citing an analyst note claiming that Apple is willing to lower the price if sales don’t meet expectations. Supply-demand “duh” and Wall St. analysts citing un-named managers aside, how psyched would we all be if Apple decided to lower all the pricing by 50 bucks? How about just on the 3G models?
5) It allows devs and 3rd party accessory mfrs to come up with cool wares without Apple having to rely on all of the people/parties keeping the thing a secret. And let’s face it – in this day and age there is no way the entire dev/accessory ecosystem could keep a lid on it.
All in all, it’s not that I don’t believe Apple has a short and medium term plan for pricing and features in place. It’s just that the lag gives Apple a somewhat safe period to adjust those plans on the fly while simultaneously giving the related ecosystem a chance to develop.
Again, perhaps this is obvious. But somehow I wouldn’t be surprised if we learn something that makes us say “wow, didn’t see that coming” between now and when the iPad ships. And someday, in an honest look back, SJ may point to that moment and say something to the effect of “Yeah, I changed my mind on that one.”