iPad 3 rumors are swirling as everyone tries to predict what new innovation will come out of the soon to be announced unveiling. Many of these rumors are surrounding what people are calling “incremental“ performance upgrades. Things like more ram, a higher resolution screen, maybe even a high definition camera. I can only hope, for Apple’s sake, that they are wrong.
One of the big problems facing Apple right now is iteration fatigue. We saw this slightly with the 4s when it launched. Despite Siri, a pretty radical innovation, people were just not all that impressed. Apple has a problem built on the foundation of its own success. Apple is known for world changing innovation. Big ideas explored in interesting ways married with impeccable design. However, that expectation can also be damning when your next big product revel turns out to be a slightly tuned version of your last product. People want your next thing to be as big and important as your last thing, and when it isn’t they can start to lose interest.
We can see this best in an industry that has recently built its house on iteration- video games. Year after year big titles see a new release with minor tweaks and upgrades, but nothing ground breaking. Video games also teach us that consumers will only tolerate this for so long. Looking at the Madden game franchise gives a perfect example of this. The Madden games used to be some of, if not the, top selling games in the industry. However, recently the games are not selling even half what they did in their prime. This is mainly attributed to a lack of innovation or improvement. If you are going to charge consumers a top product price point, and expect them to upgrade over a product of yours they have already purchased, you need to offer top price point changes. If not, people start looking at that Madden 07′ addition and wondering if they really need to drop another sixty bucks on some new rosters and a stiff arm animation. We are seeing the same thing happen with the absolutely, almost stupidly, popular Call of Duty franchise. When Black Ops came out people just did not feel it offered enough to warrant the price tag. Modern Warfare 3 is also seeing even more of the same response. Consumers want to feel like they are getting something new if they are paying new thing prices. They may even let you slide once or twice because they liked the first thing so much. However, eventually the fatigue sets in.
This is where Apple is right now. Many consumers found the 4S underwhelming, and some said that the iPad 2 did not push the brand far enough, at least not enough to warrant dropping another $499. Apple’s bread and butter are its stable of dedicated users who are early adopters and worship at the alter of aluminum. However, how long, and how many thousands of dollars, will this crowd go with “incremental” upgrades that do not really effect how they interface with the device. How many people will feel spurned because they just bought the last version at full retail, only to have it replaced by a marginally better one? When you have Samsung out there acting like they invented the stylus, and Motorola breathing down your neck, you need to keep your fans energized. You need to keep their imaginations gripped with the fantastical implications of your next device. I am just not sure ram and a better resolution screen are going to do that for much longer.