The iPad’s confusing lineup

John Gruber on the iPad’s current lineup:

A lot of people are now complaining that the iPad lineup is “confusing”. I disagree. There are specific aspects of the iPads in the lineup that are confusing, or at least disappointing. These aspects are mostly related to peripherals — which Pencils and which keyboard covers work with which iPads — and I wrote about these issues last week. But in terms of the fundamental question facing would-be buyers — “Which iPad should I get?” — I don’t think this lineup is confusing. I’d argue, in fact, that it’s less confusing, because the lineup is more complete.

John then spends 424 words explaining the differences in the lineup, not including the table he had already used to show the difference in pricing above this paragraph.

If you have to spend that long explaining the differences between the products on offer, there is definitely a problem with the coherence of the product line. This is doubly true hen your explanation has to go into the details of which device has a P3 colour gamut, which has an sRGB, which one has a “media engine”, which one supports Bluetooth 5.2 vs 5.0 and more. And that’s before you start explaining which peripherals are on offer and why exactly the first version of the Apple Pencil still exists four years after the second generation one was introduced.

If you need reminding, the iPad is a device where you just shouldn’t have to worry about that shit. It’s a classic product where a Steve Jobs four quadrant approach works perfectly: consumer, pro; small screen/large screen. Of course, there will be variances in storage space within those quadrants, but the core of the product doesn’t need to be more complex.

I have no doubt Apple knows internally this is a mess of a lineup. However, there are many reasons a company ends up with a confusing product line, usually in a transition period for the device. Sometimes this is driven by parts supply: for example, if a key part in (say) the iPad Air is constrained and will be for some time, making a similar device without that part to siphon off customers is a smart move if you have the ability to do it.

Sometimes it means an entire product remains in the lineup because you have a bunch of them that you need to sell off. And manufacturers can get blind-sided: it’s easy to see how the new iPad could have been meant to be a replacement for the 9th generation version but ended up not being able to be manufactured at the same price.

Either way, the iPad line up is a mess. There might be good reasons why it is, but attempting to claim its not is a bit daft.

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