iPad with Retina Display (4th gen)

iPad with Retina Display (4th gen) | Image courtesy of Apple

Today Apple did something somewhat out of the norm for the company, despite being rumoured ahead of time Apple released a new model of the iPad. But it didn’t change anything apart from the storage capacity, offering a whopping 128GB of storage for a meaty $799 (£639) for the WiFi model or $929 (£739) for the WiFi and Cellular model. This new iPad will be available to buy on February 5th.

There are many questions as to why Apple released this iPad this week or why in the supposed era of cloud storage that a 128GB iPad is even required. However it’s not that hard to speculate as to why Apple announced the 128GB iPad (apart from to try and out do Microsoft’s release of Office 2013) today.

Thinking logically the iPad 4 which has been somewhat constrained through the holiday shopping season is now almost universally available for immediate shipping, suggesting that Apple has caught up with any assembly backlog and is in a strong position to add an additional bunch of units to inventory.

Price will also have been a strong factor, the 128GB iPad with Retina Display offers double the amount of storage to the model below it. Such a large amount of flash memory (NAND) isn’t cheap but the price is plummeting, clearly it has plummeted far enough for Apple to stick some in a sub-$800 iPad.

But in my mind the 128GB iPad sends a strong message about Apple’s intentions. It’s a subject I’ve touched on before over the years and will in more detail bring up again soon and that Apple’s new product cycle. The current iPad was unveiled alongside the iPad mini in October last year, notably it was the second model of iPad to be released in a single year. Apple had little choice but to bring out the iPad 4 just nine months after it had the iPad 3, the technology and graphics benefits of the A6X chip were on the table to be used and there was no way Apple was going to carry a flagship product through the all-important holiday shopping season that contained a now extinct connector on the bottom.

However there was one key distinction that I had seen before and that was the obscurity of Apple’s March release schedule for the iPad. With the iPhone being on a solid end of summer release cycle and iOS releases matching up closely to that it made no sense why Apple continued to release iPad models mid way through the iPhone cycle with out dated hardware (compared to the iPhone on the market) and not benefit from the latest software. In essence Apple used the Lightning connector and the advancements in the iPhone 5 as an excuse to double release in 2012 and land the iPad on a new annual cycle.

This is where the 128GB iPad comes in, the release sends a clear message that despite rumours to the contrary Apple will not release a new iPad in March or April and the next update to the iPad will come in October alongside the second iPad mini, iOS 7 and will ready Apple for another blockbuster year end.

I’ll pick up this subject in more detail soon but many have speculated that Apple will move to a twice-yearly update of iOS hardware. We only have to look at the beating that Apple’s earnings took over the quarter to realise that the ramp-up and production of these products is seriously capital intensive and even when carefully planned leaves Apple vulnerable to extreme demand and an inability to supply customers with the products they want. There’s no way Apple wants to spend three months catching up to only have to start the process again.

[And in answer to the question that is hitting my inbox a lot. What will Apple release between now and the second half of the year? Not a whole lot I suspect]