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|Monday, April 11, 2016|
Was listening to The Talk Show with Jason Snell talking about the latest Apple event, and heard them talking a good deal about why, say, the SE had top of the line hardware and why the iPad Pro 9.7" had some new stuff but not everything the larger Pro has (it has True Tone, but not USB 3).
I think the Apple strategy when designing new consumer products is pretty simple: Use whatever's best today.
We first saw this with the new iPod touch. The iPod touch surprisingly had the same stuff inside, give or take, as an iPhone 6, then the Apple flagship, but without a price increase over the previous generation. Wait, what? For a while, it the iPod touch was the best iOS deal going. (Where was Ben Thompson's "cannibalizing" argument then? Apple's cards were already down.)
Same thing happened with the iPhone SE. They're redesigning an iOS device, and they grab the state of the art off that's already on the shelf -- and if some dates and chip serial numbers (?) are to be believed, many of the SE's chips were made well before the SE was.
And this makes good sense if you want to maximize your users' experience. I'm going to bet that the marginal cost of making a million more A9's is essentially the same as making a million A8's. And if that's true, what do you use on your SE? For your users' sake, you use A9's. Apple had the A9 in hand, was making a new motherboard, and poof, it's an easy design to use your design dollars to make that mobo hook up to the A9.*
The only reason to use an A8 would be so you're not competing with yourself. It's not a cost thing. It's not a supply-side concern. The only reason to make more A8s instead of more A9s would be so that the SE doesn't undermine your iPhone 6s.
Apple's telling us, I think, that's it's not doing that any more.
This is sorta what Ben Thompson's been saying, though he doesn't (surprisingly for him) do a good job explaining it yet -- Apple is giving maximum customer experience even though it'll cannibalize its own flagship sales. No SE? I know I would've jumped once the 7 came out. But once you put aside the temptation to undercut your own product, you release better ones. And ones that you can sell longer.
But this is not the same as a Celeron. This is not crippled hardware going downmarket. This is the best existing hardware without compromise.
The iPad Pro is interesting in that it does get bleeding edge state of the art with True Tone. But it's a "Pro" device. It should be chasing and integrating the state of the art. But it's the Tiny Pro... which means we can sacrifice features to get the right size inside. Though I would be curious to know how much it was developed in parallel with vs. orthogonal to the Giant Pro. Did the Pro have extra space that allowed USB 3? Did Apple decide that USB 3 wasn't important?
Guess when the next iPod touch refresh is going to happen? We're probably still a couple of years out. Would you be surprised if it got top of the line stuff when it is refreshed, though? I wonder how closely the iPod touch refresh will mirror the SE's.
* It makes a lot of sense that they didn't use an A10 in the SE, btw. When you have the mobo chasing the processor, you've got a much more difficult game. And if you're not ramping up production lines on the A10 yet, well... The SE needed to use the best parts on hand, the best known knowns, I guess. So you see all recycled parts. You don't create a new 4" case; you use the assembly line that you've already got running. You don't add a new processor; you grab the best you're already producing in bulk. Your only new part is the motherboard.
posted by ruffin at 4/11/2016 11:51:00 AM
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