Why did Apple launch the iPad 4 now?

The 4th-generation iPad comes just seven months after the launch of the previous model, a move that seems very un-Apple like.

Apple's release of another new iPad this year has many scratching their heads. But Morgan Stanley's Katy Huberty sees method behind the madness.

In an investors note out yesterday, Huberty ticked off three reasons why the company unveiled the iPad 4 so soon after its predecessor, which arrived earlier this year.

First, the 3rd-generation iPad, which the analyst calls a "stale product," could have seen its sales cannibalized by the cheaper iPad Mini.

Second, sales for the 3rd-gen iPad were not as high as expected, which Huberty blamed on limited improvements over the iPad 2. Adding the A6 chip to the iPad 4 doubles the new tablet's performance, which at least "partially addresses that issue."

And finally, Apple may have relied on experience in pushing out a new iPad. The company refreshed the original iPod when it released smaller versions, which the analyst says "accelerated growth."

Beyond Huberty's reasons, Apple likely had other incentives in mind.

The 4th-generation iPad comes with the same Lightning interface found on the new iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPod Nano. As CNET's Molly Wood lamented yesterday, this means that buyers of any of these new devices have to cough up the cash for all new accessories . Apple and its partners stand to gain hefty profits from all the new devices and adapters that people will be forced to purchase.

But I think the iPad refresh is also a matter of timing.

In the past, Apple's product launches were spread out across the year. A new iPhone would pop up during the summer. A new iPad would appear in March. The company now seems more intent on releasing its new products, especially its mobile products, all around the same time.

So, each new iPhone debuts in September. Each new iPad Mini will debut in October. And now, each new 9.7-inch iPad will also likely debut in October. This timing puts all the products under the same seasonal umbrella. And more importantly, it ensures that Apple has a host of new devices ready in time for the critical holiday demand.

 

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