Apple has some hot products on sale, and its designs push many an envelope. But are its decisions skewing the PC industry somewhat? The answer is yes.
The iPad 1's secret sauce was its extremely low entry price—just $500. Instantly this put pressure on would-be Apple competitors that may have assumed the device would be a premium product (in line with typical Apple pricing habits). Now the iPad 2 is here, with significantly better specs but the same old starting price of $500, outclassing many peers who tried to out-spec the device and in doing so ended up making something much more expensive. As information from inside the PC manufacturing industry reveals, this may leave competitors scrambling to tweak their tablet launch plans.
According to Digitimes, already "2-3 notebook brand vendors" plan to "postpone their tablet PC model's launch schedule until after they redesign the specifications and reduce the related costs" of their iPad competitors. To compete with the iPad, manufacturers feel they need to get prices below $399, and Digitimes' inside sources say "none of the current Wintel or ARM/Android" platforms can achieve such a goal while maintaining profitability on the devices.
Considering the fuss that erupted when it seemed Samsung was going to reconsider its Galaxy Tab 10-inch unit because it was "inadequate" compared to the iPad 2 (Samsung later recanted these rumors, and says its 10-inch Tab launch is going ahead on schedule, and unadjusted), this is an extremely plausible state of affairs. Apple did pretty much invent the new tablet PC paradigm, and has moved swiftly to consolidate its position. Particularly noteworthy is the imminent launch of iPad 2 in 26 nations—much faster than expected, and significantly swifter than the prolonged roll-out of the original device. Any moves Apple makes have the potential to distort the entire tablet market.
Meanwhile, there's news that graphics hardware firm Nvidia may suffer a market share hit in the early part of this year that could impact the firm's bottom line. The reason? Apple has switched GPU supplier for its popular line of MacBook Pro laptops from Nvidia to rival AMD. Since sales of the MacBooks have skyrocketed (some figures place sales of the new 11-inch MacBook Air alone at over 1.1 million in its first quarter), and unlike generic PC manufacturers Apple controls hardware and software strictly, a change in its supplier lineup may heavily impact the industry.
This isn't the first time we've seen Apple's ripple effect. Back in February, reports surfaced that that Apple's high demand for touchscreen display units was putting the squeeze on its rivals' roll-out plans. Apple's dominance as a manufacturer suggests that its merest whim can make waves in the rest of the computing industry. Heck, even stubborn Adobe is kinda bending to Steve Jobs' decisions. Whether this is a positive or not depends on your thinking (not to mention what company you work for or stocks you own). Apple can be seen as leading the way for a quality, innovative computer experience ... or as a giant that should be challenged.
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[Image by Andrew Hur]