As Apple iPad tablet frenzy builds, I wonder: How will Steve Jobs shortchange early adopters?
Don't get me wrong, I'm as excited to see Apple's new touchscreen tablet technology as anyone -- and not just because I hope the pipe dream about it saving print advertising (and thus print jobs) might be true.
Apple CEO Steve Jobs has just unveiled the iPad device in California, to wild applause, according to MSNBC, which quotes Jobs saying: "We want to kick off 2010 with a truly revolutionary and magical product," to a packed audience at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco today.
It's got a 10-inch screen and $500 price for smaller units, $700 for the unit with more capacity.
The features sound amazing. According Twitter posts from tech blogger Jason Calacanis, the new tablet -- which Apple is expected to unveil at 6 p.m. today, has a built in HDTV tuner, two cameras, wifi connection to other tablets, amazing gaming capabilities and a continuous battery life of two to three hours for loads of gaming.
According to Mashable.com: It can be held in any direction you want. It looks like a giant iPod; It has a virtual keyboard. “A dream to type on,” according to Jobs; It has Google Maps, and of course is web-enabled. It’s lightning fast; YouTube can be watched in HD; You slide to unlock; The music player looks like a new version of iTunes.
So far, it sounds like a giant-sized version of the iPod Touch, which is a device I like so much, my family uses three.
And it's got so much tech buzz, Wikipedia already has an entry up on it.
But tech-heads with a memory will recall those awful days of 2007, when Apple cut the price of its 8GB iPhone by $200 two months after the model debuted. Eventually, amid an outcry from fans, Apple gave purchasers of the original iPhones a $100 store credit.
According to author and blogger Pete Mortesen, Apple has a history of announcing either substantial feature upgrades or steep price discounts for popular technologies within months of introducing them.
Going back to the first Mac's debut in 1984, when the company announced a substantial upgrade in technology within eight months, then announced a better machine for $700 less three months later, Mortensen makes the point that Apple seems to have a long corporate history here.
Other techies -- who seem to be drinking a bit of Apple Kool-Aid to me -- say this is the price you pay to be an early adopter. In exchange for having the coolest tech before anyone else, you get devices with bugs, experimental features and tentative price points.
All of which is grand. But Apple seems to show a surprising disdain for the needs of customers caught between product cycles. Seems to me, offering early adopters discounted prices on upgrades or other consideration would be elemental for a company which calls its service departments "genius bars" and trades on the idea that its machines are so user-friendly in ads.
In the end, I guess, no Apple customer should be surprised if the new Apple tablet shows up with way-cool new features at the same price or a sharply reduced price a few months after it hits the market.
Rewarding loyalty with price gouging --that's an interesting corporate strategy.