Posted by David Price 19 March 2014
The iPad 2 strategy: Or how to make your old products unappealing
So farewell, then, iPad 2. "Don't buy me!" That was your catchphrase.
The iPad 2's death was preceded by a long illness, the symptoms of which included wasting away (of sales) and a loss of appetite (from customers). For some time, indeed, it was openly spoken of as a lame duck. A patsy. The mug of the week. The fall guy.
Perhaps this sort of levity isn't respectful; after all, the iPad 2 has been a monstrously successful product. But since the launch of the iPad Air and iPad mini 2 I've often wondered why anyone would buy Apple's second tablet.
Granted, with a run-up and following wind it's possible to conceive of a theoretical customer for whom an iPad 2 would still be the right choice. But for most budget buyers the first iPad mini would be a better, cheaper and more portable option. And for most of the rest the infinitely more future-proofed (and again, more portable) entry-level iPad Air would be well worth the extra £80.
So why did Apple keep selling the creaky old iPad 2 for so long, while ushering the iPad 3 and 4 into early retirement? (The iPad 4, incidentally, has now been coaxed out of retirement to take on one last case. Which, if Hollywood has taught us anything, means trouble is in store.)
One theory is that the iPad 2 offers something different - a non-Retina, budget full-screen tablet that compromises on screen resolution and reaps the benefits in other areas (namely a combination of screen size and price that can't be matched by other Apple products, even if individually they can be trounced). You could argue that it makes sense to offer Retina and non-Retina iPads in each size, since there are buyers who don't care about the sharpest possible display and don't see why they should pay for it.
A more cynical approach would be to wonder if Apple's management knew how unappealing the iPad 2 had got, and didn't care. After all, the first challenge faced by every new product - or at least every product with a successful predecessor hanging around the place, a bit like Sir Alex Ferguson - is to kill its parent. And the iPad 2 is a helpfully doddery parent to have around.
It presents less of an appealing budget alternative to the iPad Air than the iPad 4 would, at any rate. Certainly there's more going on than simply 'Here are all the iPads we've made, buy whatever you like'. Apple still sells a relatively small number of products in each category, and that's as much about the products it wants to sell as those that customers want to buy - or, you suspect, the iPhone 3GS would still be on sale.
Whatever Apple's motives, the iPad 2 has finally been put out to pasture, and the iPad 4 is back. Perhaps it has a long future ahead of it as the next lame duck.