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A crab in the Apple tree

Today, I was among many geeks who, like the high school guy nervously awaiting the prom dance to end and the exit to the hotel room, awaited my semi regular dose of Apple branded technology porn. When the announcement of the iPhone 5 arrived, it was the same drug, administered with all the flourish and expectation of many similar injections of years past. We got to see all the leaked features put on full display, from the larger screen, to the oh so luscious LTE wireless speed. The device had everything we've been asking for, and even a few nice surprises like the new connector that you can insert in the dark, and it doesn't matter if it's upside down or not. The display was beautiful, the design and form factor was polished, and everything was exactly as we expected.

But wait! There was more! The iPod Nano got a complete redesign as well. The Nano is one of those products that can't seem to settle on a shirt to put on in the morning. It's worn the skinny tie, the shirt that makes it look fat, and even the shirt that resembled Falvor Flav by making you think about wearing it as a wrist watch. This poor device can't settle down, but it seems that every iteration is still a great work of art. This latest incarnation also impresses. Overall, it's a welcome refresh to the iPod line.

But wait! Yet another update! The iPod Touch got a refresh! Wow, it has the same screen as the iPhone 5, and a better camera, and a new A5 chip! Sweet! Multiple colors? Rock on! It can be yours for... wait.. what was that price again? You're kidding me right? $300??? And just like that... the crab has entered the Apple tree. But unlike most instances where I laugh at the silly pundits who complain that they didn't get everything they wanted, as I watch my single share of Apple stock grow and grow... this time... I'm the crab.

The iPod Touch was always a unique device. It allowed Apple to bring iOS to the masses that couldn't afford, or didn't want, an iPhone. I owned one for many years, and loved it. I took it to China with me, and it was a great tool in lieu of a smartphone. But the world has changed. Smartphones are everywhere, and even people who I never would have thought of having one in the past, are now sporting the latest Android or iOS device. So what is the role of the iPod Touch? Apple claims that it's also a great gaming device. I can see that, as it's got some of the best games around, and a beautiful screen and touch interface. But it's main competitor in the handheld gaming market, the Nintendo DSi, is often found for much less than $150. Yet, Apple decided to release this device for $300. This is one of those moments where I become the person I despise and ask the question... "Would Steve Jobs really have done this?"

The problem is, that although Apple has always been able to demand a premium, I feel that in this case they went too far. When you look at the marketplace that they are competing with, it's no longer JUST the small mp3 players, or the handheld video game devices. It's the mini-tablet. Both the Google Nexus 7, and the Kindle Fire have started to reshape the landscape, albeit slowly. In many ways, with the Nexus 7, Google 'out-Apple'd Apple. The Nexus 7 tablet is a really nice device, and has shown itself quite useful for various people that I know that have one. So it's only logical that Apple will enter this space soon, and in fact the current rumors put their unveiling somewhere around October. But with today's announcement, they've already telegraphed the price point, and it's nowhere near the price point of the Nexus 7. The base level Nexus 7 retails for $199. This is a great price point to get people in to the mini-tablet world, and exposing them to an application ecosystem. But if Apple plans to release an iPad Mini, the price with need to START at $300, so that they have a clear diferentiation with their iPod Touch line.

This disappoints me tremendously. My hope had been that we would see an iPad mini for around $250. A bit more than the Nexus 7, but hey, you have to be willing to pay the premium for an Apple product. But a full $100 more than the closest competitor will put it far out of reach of many prospective buyers. Sure the Nexus 7 doesn't have a Retina display, but honestly, for most pople, a 7 inch device doesn't need that. Instead of trying to beat Google at the game that they think they can win, Apple is choosing to distance themselves in a way that I think will be most unhelpful.

So like the prom guy who realizes when he gets to the hotel room that he's not getting everything he hoped for, I sit here let down by Apple. But who knows, maybe something will change, and the announcement in October will blow our socks off. It's your move Apple... what are you going to do?


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