Shelf life…

From the moment you buy any new bit of technology, the clock is running. Call it shelf life, planned obsolesce, or corporate money grubbing, the only great truism in high tech, is the next great thing is always just around the corner. Another, more or less unspoken truth has always been that Apple released it’s new and improved products about a year after the last model came out. Amortized out over a period of 12 months, even a $700 iPad could almost be considered a yearly purchase, especially when you account for its relatively high resale value. By the time it was said and done, the total cost of ownership of my first two iPads came out to something like $20 a month… or one vinti vanilla latte a week.

In rolling out the iPad 4 just seven months after the 3rd iteration launched, Apple has thrown my TCOO calculation all out of whack. The device got a serious spec bump and I would love to have the additional processing power/speed, but the fact is there’s nothing the 4 does that the 3 can’t do (almost) as well. This time around, I’m just not seeing the typical “killer” feature that would usually drive me to switch to the latest and greatest model. Of course that explains why that iPad 3 has been discontinued rather than simply sold at a lower price point. The specs and performance are just too close to the new flagship. I know there are plenty of people who will be up early on Friday to drop in their order, though. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t strongly consider it if for no other reason than to be able to use the same charging cable for my phone and my tablet. Unless you’re in that position, it’s hard to describe just how annoying that actually is. Still, it doesn’t look like I’m going to be a buyer for iPad 4.

Having ruled out full sized iPad out of the equation still leaves me to consider the iPad mini. Since I many use my iPad as an e-reader, I have to admit this one is tempting. I like the idea of a smaller/lighter device, but don’t think I can get past what feels like a “downgrade” in specs going from iPad 3 to iPad mini, by which I mean losing the retina display and not gaining anything particularly impressive in terms of overall performance. I’m really going to have to hold on in my hand before I’m ready to pass judgment one way or the other.

Don’t take any of this as a slam against the world’s most valuable company, because it’s not. I think Apple rolled out a truly ridiculous number of new, improved, and magical devices today. If there’s any of them that I’m super desirous of at the moment, it would be the new retina 13-inch MacBook Pro, but with its 2008-model ancestor basically still running like it was new out of the box and a Mac mini doing all of the heavy lifting in this house, a $1700 bill from the Apple store just isn’t on the table at the moment.

It seems I’m at that uncomfortable point in product life cycles where there just isn’t much incentive to change what’s currently working. If I weren’t already sitting so close to the state of the art, though, any of the new toys Tim and Company spent the afternoon showing off would be a pretty damned impressive addition to the collection.

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