Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 4
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Consumers must consider product cycles in consumption decisions

Now is not the best time to buy an iPad. While it remains, in my opinion, the best shipping tablet on the market today, you shouldn’t buy one. At least, not for another few months. On the face of things, this may seem counterintuitive. After all, if the iPad is a good product at a good price, why not buy it?

Here’s why: Apple will probably announce a new version of the iPad in the coming weeks. It’s important to note that I don’t have any special sources or other inside information. (Apple has announced an event on March 2, which many journalists, myself included, believe will be the announcement of the new iPad.) I just pay attention to product cycles. A product cycle is the amount of time between when a company first releases a product and when they release a new version of that product. Usually, companies tend to maintain fairly regular product cycles, especially with new hardware. (Software is a trickier matter.)

Apple is one of the best examples of a company that maintains regular product cycles, so much so that they’re like clockwork. Ever since its release, some new version of the iPod has been released every year. That’s why the majority of tech media outlets are tripping over themselves, trying to report rumors about the new iPad. The product was announced on January 27 of last year, and because Apple tends to release new hardware like that every year or so, it’s now overdue for a refresh. Thus, why you shouldn’t buy an iPad right now.

Okay, so that’s how a product cycle works for one product. How can you go about doing this same sort of research in the comfort of your own home? For me, my first stop is Wikipedia. For example, the page on Windows has a handy time line of releases. Taking a quick glance at it, it looks as though Microsoft has a fairly consistent two- or three-year product cycle for major releases. In other words, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect a new version of Windows in the next year or two.

But what if you want to get the second version of a brand new product, like the iPad? How can you tell then? In that case, it’s best to look at the company’s past history, and in some cases, the release of other important technologies. When it comes to iOS devices, Apple follows a fairly regimented one year product cycle. Every year, they’ve released a new version of the iPhone without fail. There’s no reason to believe that they wouldn’t do the same thing with the iPad.

History with similar products is not a guarantee, though. After all, Apple could decide that it’s not worth it to release a new iPad; except that right now, there’s an important new technology that the current iPad is missing: FaceTime. Every other iOS device has FaceTime except for the iPad.

For another example, let’s take a look at the Samsung Galaxy Tab. It’s a competitor to the iPad, and it was released in mid-November of last year. But Samsung just announced that a new version (the aptly named Galaxy Tab 2) will be released next month. What’s up with that?

The simple answer is: the technology changed. Google released a new version of Android (version 3.0) designed just for tablet devices like the Galaxy Tab. Samsung would be foolish not to capitalize on that, and thus the Galaxy Tab 2. Of course, that means that anyone who bought the original Galaxy Tab thinking that it would be a good long while before another one would become available for purchase are unfortunately left holding the bag.

So there you have it. When it comes to making a big purchase in the realm of technology, it’s best to get the most bang for your buck. That’s why paying attention to product cycles is so important: if you don’t, you’re liable to make purchases at a time that leave you with a bad case of buyer’s remorse.

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