Apple's iPad Mini doesn't merit a grand launch

The Apple lineologists are at it again as the iPad Mini hits Apple stores. The verdict is lukewarm. After all, people had to weigh an incremental iPad Mini vs. electricity in some areas. Others just had to weigh a $329 starting price.

Oh Joy! Another Apple line. Ty Pendlebury/CNET

Apple has launched the iPad Mini at its retail stores and the news is -- wait for it -- the lines aren't all that long.

Well, let's see. On the East Coast, folks are more worried about getting power back from that storm called Sandy. Others are trying to get into New York, with little luck. Everywhere else, the lines are so-so at best. In other words, there's not a big rush for the iPad Mini. And there shouldn't be. The product isn't revolutionary, has a defined role, and is saddled with a price that just doesn't scream value. In other words, if you want an iPad Mini, drop into an Apple store and get one, but don't expect to be the coolest person at a party. A week like this reorders the priorities a bit for but a select few.

Among the factors behind a relatively quiet launch:

  • The iPad Mini is incremental. There was no tablet deathblow delivered by Apple.
  • The price seems high -- $329. The iPad was revolutionary at $499 owing to price, design, and ecosystem. The iPad Mini's price seems to be designed to get you to buy a larger version.
  • Apple is a large conventional company now. Why do those Samsung ads mocking Apple lines work? Because there's an element of truth to them. Apple isn't counterculture anymore.
  • You can preorder. If you wanted an iPad Mini, you would have preordered one already.
  • Not every Apple product is a home run. The iPad Mini may not be a smashing success. That reality may be just fine with Apple, which is looking to boost the total addressable market for the iPad.

Nevertheless, the line analysis will continue. Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster is an Apple lineologist. Here's his take, which has a bevy of excuses built in (highlighted by my boldface type):

Amid Unique Circumstances, iPad Mini Lines Shorter Than 3rd Gen iPad Lines.

We have counted iPad launch day lines at every launch since the first iPad in 2010. We believe that based on our count of 580 customers in line for the iPad Mini launch at the flagship 5th Avenue store, demand for the iPad Mini is initially in-line with our expectations. We believe that about 10% of the iPad Mini line may have been waiting for the 4th Gen iPad based on our survey work. As a comparison, the 3rd Gen iPad line in March of this year was 750 people at the flagship store. For this launch, we believe there is significant noise around the line data. First, we note that New York is currently facing unique circumstances due to Hurricane Sandy that are making transportation significantly more difficult for potential iPad Mini buyers. We also note that two of the five Apple Stores in New York are closed due to power outages. In Minneapolis, we note that outdoor customers (Uptown) are facing below 32 degree temperatures. For the Mall of America (MN) line of 35 customers, a more fair comparison would be the 3rd Gen iPad line, suggesting about a 50% decrease for the iPad Mini line. Despite these influences, we continue to feel comfortable with our 1-1.5 million iPad Mini launch weekend estimate and 5 million estimate for the December quarter.

In other words, it's cold outside. People lack power. The commute is hell. Why would you brave all that mess for an arguably overpriced tablet -- even one made by Apple? Stay tuned for the next Samsung ad.

This story originally appeared at ZDNet's Between the Lines under the headline Apple's iPad mini doesn't deserve a grand debut.

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