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The big buzz about the iPad mini may have drowned out one important question for Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL): is the company’s product line getting too complex for its own good?
Earlier, a user looking to buy an Apple tablet had the option of choosing between either the second-generation iPad or the latest version with the Retina display, which came at a premium. However, at one combined launch event, Apple suddenly added two completely new products, and their various memory and connectivity versions, to its lineup. As The New York Times points out, when you add up the different models of the iPads, including all screen sizes, storage options, and connectivity variations, there are now a total of 14 tablets to choose from.
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The nomenclature doesn’t make it easy either — with the older version of the 10-inch device titled iPad 2 and the fourth-generation, and newer, tablet simply called the iPad. There is also the matter of the new Lightning dock connector, which is built into the newer models of the tablet and the iPhone 5, but none of the devices launched before this fall. In addition, while the iPad 2 does not work on the network of Sprint (NYSE:S), the other models do.
According to Gartner analyst Michael Gartenberg, the positive for Apple was the fact that all its mobile devices operate on the same software. “The key is they all run the same apps and are part of the larger ecosystem,” Gartenberg told The New York Times. “No confusion about what will run or won’t.”
In contrast, Research In Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM) had the unique problem of complicated model numbers that made it difficult for customers to understand the difference between a BlackBerry Torch 9820, 9810, and 9850, for instance. Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) also faces a bigger challenge of fragmentation, Gartenberg said, because different Android tablets could run a different version of the software depending on the manufacturer the version of the operating system.
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